A classic Denim jacket layered over black tshirt which is shown to express the classic history of it

The History & Evolution of Denim Jacket [A Complete Guide]

The History of Denim jackets is completely different from most other outerwear out there. Its history is mixed up with blood, sweat, tears, and struggles. It might have become an all-time favourite item for the past two centuries but it has a great history behind its grow up.

The history of denim jackets is the witness of the Industrial Revolution. Henceforth, it also has a great significance in the World War. In this part of the denim jacket’s history, you will find it in the characters of rebellions throughout the 20th century.

Its versatility of upgrading the outlook to an extant has attracted men, women, and children to embrace it. But the style revolution of denim jackets wouldn’t have happened, if the KINGPIN celebrities hadn’t contributed. 

Here we have discussed the history and evolution of the denim jacket.  Let’s check out its beginnings as workwear to the journey of becoming high-status style clothing for fashion.

The Origin of Denim or Jeans Fabric

Before diving deep into the history of the denim jacket we got to know more about the origin of jeans fabric, right? 

The denim or jeans fabric is mainly an advanced and hardened form of twill fabric. According to history, jeans and denim are not similar to what we are watching today. It has a little controversy. According to historians “Jeans” and “Denim” came from distinct European places.

History says that “Jeans” came from Genoa, a city in Italy. At that time it was called “genoese” or “genese”. Initially, in Genoa, jeans were made of blended cotton and wool by the weavers. 

image of the coastal area of genoa, Italy
Photo by dronepicr | License: CC BY 2.0 | Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the early 15th century Jeans fabric started spreading due to its toughness and durability. Soon it became very popular amongst the sailor merchants of the coastal areas and the Genoese Navy. In the 16th century, England started importing Jeans to maintain the demand for clothes in their territory. 

On the other hand, “Denim” originated from the Nîmes, a city in France. It was mainly called “Serge de Nîmes” which means the sturdy (Serge) fabric from Nîmes. 

Exterior of the Arena of Nîmes
Photo by Tiomax80 | License: CC BY 2.0 | Source: Wikimedia Commons

During the 17th century, weavers of the Nimes attempted to recreate the “Genes” fabric of Genoa. This time they used wool and silk and made a sturdy corduroy similar to the “Genes”. Later, wool and silk were entirely replaced by cotton due to the unavailability of wool. And a pretty similar outcome has evolved. 

Though there is not any specific timeline of Denim and jeans, from that time Jeans and Denim are considered similar.

Why The Color of Denim Is Blue?

In the beginning denim denim fabric was woven by one blue yarn and one white yearn. The warp was of indigo and the weft was white. This indigo or blue color yarn was obtained by dying it in the organic dye that originated from an Indian Plant “Indigofer tinctoria”.

This type of dye sits on the outside of the cotton thread and glorifies the thread. Normally this dye doesn’t penetrate completely into the fabric. As a result, by washing it a faded effect was obtained so easily. But, long-term use might also provide a cool fading effect. 

However, after the Industrial Revolution synthetic dye was used to decrease the production rate of the fabric.

The Journey of Denim Jackets as Workwear Toward The Development of History

During the Industrial Revolution, people started feeling the necessity of hard and durable workwear. Mainly the miners, farmers, and factory workers were the dedicated users of the sturdy long-lasting outfits.

In 1853 an immigrant from Bavaria, Germany, named Levi Strauss moved to  San Francisco and started a brunch of his family business. There he started selling Denim fabric along with other products. A tailor named Jacob W. Devis bought Denim Fabric from him and became his regular customer. 

In the meantime, Devis got a great deal with commissions from a gold mining company to make trousers for gold miners of high strength and also could withstand heavy-duty work. Here, came the true opportunity and he didn’t want to lose it. Devis also decided to use metal rivets to increase the strength. 

Levi’s denim was so hard, durable, and working environment friendly. That’s why Devis offered a partnership and they became partners on May 20, 1873.  Later they made the riveted Denim workwear and made it their own patent received from the United States Patent and Trademark Office(U.S. Patent 139,121).

Although denim jeans quickly gained popularity among laborers and became a West American signature, it did not become that popular among the mass people so fast. The primary jacket’s design was based on the denim work shirt, which had been used in the laborer groups for decades. 

Later in 1890 Levi’s company launched its first pair of jeans. At that time jeans were preferred by the cowboys, miners, and workers. In 1905 Levi’s launched the “Levi’s Blouse”. It was made to cope with the riveted jeans as the upper portion of the outfit. 

This is the beginning of the Denim Jacket that continued evolving over the years. This “Levi’s Blouse” is known as the “Type I” denim jacket.

First Denim Jacket For Outdoor Use

Though the first denim jacket was mainly the “Levi’s Blouse” or “Type I Denim jacket”, it was not chosen for outdoor use by the general people but by workers.

Around 1923, even though Levi’s had a legacy of almost 50 years, a new brand named “Lee” came into the market and became popular so fast. In the same year “Lee” launched a new type of Denim jacket called the “Railroad Jacket”. Which was specifically designed for the railway workers. 

In 1925 Lee launched a new pattern of slim-cut denim jacket “91J”. This style of denim jacket looked very suitable for outdoor use because of its shape and structure. However, it gained so much success faster than Lee’s expectation. This famous type is also called the “Loco Jacket”. 

Within a very short time, denim jackets of the aforementioned types became very popular among the mass people. As a result, from early 1920 to 1930 denim jackets were chosen for outdoor and leisure activities aside from only heavy-duty work. Therefore, people started wearing these for going out hunting and fishing as well.

The Evolution of the Denim Jacket

The first Type I denim jacket launched by Levi’s was constructed with the 9 oz fabric. On the other hand, the first in 1925 Lee’s “91J” denim jacket was of 10 oz fabric.

In 1933 Lee launched the most iconic and demandable “Storm Rider Jacket” which brought a massive change in the industry. It started dominating the market just after its arrival. This jacket was mainly made for winter use with Alaskan blanket lining. It also had a cord collar and cuff to provide a warm feeling to the user.

In 1953 Levi’s analysed the demand for denim jackets in the US market. Then they launched the Type II Denim Jacket. Basically, Type II is the modified version of the Type I denim jacket. Mainly the Type II came with two chest pockets but it didn’t include the back cinch anymore.

In 1963 Levi’s launched their most iconic and evergreen Type III Denim Jacket which is also known as the Trucker Jacket very much. The trucker jacket was constructed of 14 Oz fabric. It primarily featured pointed flaps in the front pockets and the main significance of it was its tailored fit. The trucker jacket also featured orange stitch instead of yellow.

Both Lee and Levi’s claim the first creation of a denim jacket.  It is apparent that the styles were gradually developed by both brands around the same time.

Denim Jacket’s Global Recognition During and After World War II

World War II paved the way for denim’s global recognition. Especially during the war soldiers and officers both were provided denim vests. 

It is usually heard that jeans jackets were provided to the soldiers as uniforms. However, from some historical images and videos of WWII, we can see that soldiers used to wear them during battle or off-battle, both.

After the war, it was also seen that officers posted overseas used to carry denim jackets and jeans both to wear during off-duty and pastimes. Hence, just after the war, denim jackets became a hugely popular item among civilians who were fashionable.

The Denim Jacket in the 1950s and 1960s

During the 1950s and 1960s, denim jackets became young people’s favorite fashionwear. Many people from the young generation used to wear them as a symbol of youth rebellion

People started to decorate denim with patches and pins. These DIY styles brought a massive change in the fashion industry.

Rock stars and Pop stars all were seen to wear them in their shows. Rock stars such as Elvis Presley and The Beatles are the common names of those decades who wore them on their shows.

The Denim Jacket in the 1970s and 1980s

The outer look of denim jackets made them more popular during the 1970s and 1980s. Compared to the past few decades its uses had drastically increased then. At that time denims were worn by both men and women as casual fashion. The reason was Lee and other companies started producing unisexual items commercially.

Denim Jackets were often worn with jeans to create a combination of denim-on-denim vibe. People got to go with the latest styles that’s why they started wearing them with T-shirts and sneakers in the streets.

Denim Jacket’s History in the 1990s and Beyond

For some known and unknown reasons, in the 1990s, the denim jacket lost its popularity. But,  from the next decade, it made a perfect comeback and continued its legacy till now. You will find Denim jackets of many styles and colors. These jackets are worn by people of all ages and backgrounds as an indiscriminate item.

The Future of the Denim Jacket

The denim jacket is an all-time favorite classic fashionwear. The legacy of its popularity will obviously dominate the market for a long time. People are using denim jackets as professional outfits these days.

However, as the fashion industry is focusing more on sustainability, we can see the attention to producing eco-friendly denim jackets from recycled materials. As technology is getting faster development, we are getting denim fabrics that are more durable, sustainable, versatile, and comfortable.

Celebrities who have glorified the historical legacy of Denim

Denim jackets got popularity fast but not overnight. Over the years,  many celebrities have promoted denim clothing, including denim jackets. Here are a few examples:

James Dean 

picture of james dean who was the pioneer of creating denim jacket a historical dress code

This legendary actor and handsome filmstar was usually given credit for promoting denim jeans and jackets in the 1950s. His bold character and iconic style in the film “Rebel Without a Cause” featured a denim jacket.  From that time, Denim jackets became a constant part of American fashion history.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe the famous actress who made female denim jacket iconic

Marilyn Monroe is one of the most iconic ladies in the film industry globally. She was very popular in her days. Denim jackets became a part of women’s fashion & style after she started using them regularly. She used to wear denim outfits, like jeans and denim jackets, in her films and day-to-day life.

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley in a dancing pose wearing a denim jacket

He was known as the “King of Rock and Roll”. He was known for his selective fashion choices and unique bold test. Elvis Presley used to love denim jackets as his regular wear. He often put on denim during stage performances.


One of the most famous pop stars and fashion icons of this era. She has been seen wearing denim jackets as part of her eclectic style.

Justin Timberlake

The former NSYNC member and solo artist had often been spotted wearing denim jackets in his music videos and on stage during his live concerts.

These celebs have huge contributions to promoting and popularizing denim jackets for many years since the middle of the 20th century. They have an equal impact on the American fashion industry as well as the other parts of the globe.

Let’s Conclude

These days wearing stylish Denim has become a healthy trend. Denim fabrics are also recycled to keep the environment clean. However, the history may help you to understand the specialty of denim.

The denim jacket is an all-time favorite clothing item that has been popular for years. There is no doubt that denim is a versatile dress. Both men and women can easily wear it for casual styles. Many fashion brands are repeatedly producing eye-catching and highly engineered Denim Jackets these days. 

However, only one or two brands single-handedly brought Denim jackets to a certain level. But other brands also deserve the credit for creating a competitive market for making the comfortable best denim fabrics. 

Despite the drawbacks, many people still enjoy wearing denim jackets for their style and versatility.

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