I don’t think my dad ever owned a pair of blue jeans. When he had to do dirty yardwork, or toil in his basement workshop, or paint a room, he wore a ratty pair of old suit trousers.
I suspect he associated denim with either suspect people or those who were forced to work with their hands, or, and maybe most importantly, lowlifes, convicts and juvenile delinquents like James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause or Marlon Brando in The Wild One.
In other words, people who were definitely not his sort and of whom he was immediately judgmentally suspicious were denim donners.
I think I would have been shocked to see the old man in Levis. Ironically, he did have a blue denim jacket, which he regularly wore on weekends in chilly weather, but the pants part of the equation? Never. So, if he were to stride in bedecked in jeans would have been akin to finding out he dabbled in heroin on the side, or was picking up a few extra bucks by running a string of Bangkok B-girls. It just wouldn’t have happened.
It was all a generational thing, of course. While mess’rs Levi and Strauss and their garments can be dated back to the days of the California Gold Rush, the popularity of blue denim only gained vogue after World War Two. Within a few years after 1945, jeans became the costume of every youngster. My first pair of ‘long pants’, when I was about five (in those days boys had to graduate to the stage when they could wear long pants; I have absolutely no idea why, but that was the way it was) was a pair of jeans.
The blue denim garment and all it suggested entered the popular culture. Aside from the aforementioned Dean and Brando, there were such items of popular esoterica as:
The Swingin’ Blue Jeans (British Invasion group responsible for The Hippy-Hippy Shake)
Blue Jean Bop (song by the late and disgracefully underappreciated early rocker, Gene Vincent)
Blue Denim (Sexual awakening film from about 1958 starring the late Brandon de Wilde and the absolutely yummy Carol Lynley)
Dungaree Doll (a vocal offering by the really rather talented Eddie Fisher – Carrie’s dad – who sent his career into a tailspin by deciding to boink Liz Taylor)
Blue denim wasn’t restricted to males, of course, and females embraced the fabric quite early on, and certainly for leisurewear. There is almost a prototypical image of the postwar coed whom, if she wasn’t bedecked in poodle skirt (covering an impenetrable panty girdle), then she was in rolled up dungarees and bobby-sox.
For a while, the ‘blue’ of the blue denim syndrome became a bit old, and people graduated to denim of other hues. My preference was ‘wheat’, sort of half way between white and beige, and my standard costume during university years was wheat jeans and a navy blue turtleneck sweater. I later ‘lent’ that sweater to a lover and I never saw it again. I still miss the sweater, while I don’t miss her at all.
Then it all came back with the so-called ‘designer jeans’ a few years later. Those ridiculously expensive ones that Brooke Shields wore without undies – or so she suggested in an ad.
I never succumbed to such exploitation and always found the offerings by LS served me fine and looked better than any fancy-schmantzy ones. I’ve also had black jeans, brown jeans, and still possess a pair of wheat jeans. However, looking in my closet I see there are seven pairs of blue ones.
Personally, I think the jeans culture is too pervasive and I wish people would dress more appropriately when a situation doesn’t call for denim. On the other hand, it is a sartorial culture that has shown no sign of waning for over 60 years.
And, to be blunt, some women have asses that simply lend themselves to denim in a most enticing way. So, shoot me for being a swine, but sometimes I notice stuff.