Blue jeans. Everybody wears them. Mostly because they’re comfortable, or so they say. But denim pants are hardly the most comfortable item of clothing in anybody’s closet. Sweat pants and pajama bottoms score higher on that scale. Physically comfortable that is, But psychologically? Now that’s a different story.
Blue jeans are the most socially iconic article of clothing anybody can wear. From the mid-1950s going forward, jeans became the fashion statement of choice for bad boys and misunderstood women. Young. Edgy. Flying against the grain. James Dean wore them in Rebel Without a cause and Marilyn Monroe in the Misfits. The story of a woman who runs away with a group of Bohemians who also happen to be cowboys.
In November 1988 American Vogue made a statement on its cover, launching the beginning of a denim moment in fashion that never went away. Now denim holds a special place in the fashion world, and the reach is global. As you sit here reading this article, over half the population on the planet is wearing jeans.
Denim jeans started in America as a work pant for coal miners and cowboys, but as time went on it became part of a movement signifying rebellion, working-class struggle, and equalization between men and women, cultures and socioeconomic groups. That’s why it continues to be the item of choice for both men and women, and as such, it has evolved, each culture and country coveting it and adding a special twist of ownership, quirky, influential, making an iconic, independent statement.
So how are real-life women wearing them on the stylish streets of the world? Here are a few stories about the women in six cultures and their personalization of the humble blue jean.
Let’s face it, French women score highest on the effortlessly chic scale, more than any other group of women in the world, but they do it with a certain “avoir du chien,” which loosely translated means being charming whilst a little dangerous.
Blue jeans are as much a choice in the French woman’s wardrobe as they are in yours and mine, but the difference is in the execution. French women don’t wear sloppy jeans. They prefer conservative, but the very essence of their style revolves around simple juxtaposition, mixing elements that ordinarily wouldn’t appear together and doing it with great stylish aplomb. It’s what makes us watch French movies actresses and celebrities like Isabelle Huppert, Marion Cotillard and Audrey Tatou with such fashion envy. French women, regardless of age and lifestyle, wear their blue jeans with classic elements, well-cut blazers, and smart t-shirts, a sexy but practical shoe with a small heel in a bright color, (not always black), and usually only one spectacular accessory, a fabulous bangle on the wrist, a jaw-dropping handbag or a gorgeous scarf. The look is as much at home in the office, as it is on a casual weekend in the country and has become a favorite adopted choice for style icons like Kate Middleton and Carmen Diaz.
London style is about radiating confidence. It’s rarely overworked, but classically eclectic. Think of the concepts of mixing the old with the new, luxury with vintage swank, male and female, east side and west side.
British girls are masters at mixing high-end British brands, like Burberry and Alexander McQueen with swanky consignment shop finds and cheaper trendy pieces from stores like H & M.
The average British girl can also be an enchantress when it comes to mixing colors and textures or even prints from different worlds. Try leopard print with your distressed jeans then add an accessory with a pop of brightness, emerald green, cobalt blue or magenta for an explosive and individualistic look. The look can be classic, but also eccentric, much like the Brits themselves.
And what about the Italian woman? What is it that makes la donna italiana so stylish and sexy at the same time? Italian women wear jeans, but not in the same way that we do. The style is bombshell meets casual sex appeal. Fellini films and the Italian actress come to mind. Sophia Loren and Monica Bellucci, looking their best even in the simplest moments of the day, popping out for five minutes to pick up a liter of milk, all the while looking effortlessly stunning.
The most popular choices for jeans in Italy revolves around color and fit, which translates as perfectly formed to the body while cheerfully flirtatious. Italian women prefer jeans in rainbow colors, cheeky persimmon, fabulous fuchsia or shimmering turquoise. No matter where they live and work, in the noble districts of the north, near Lake Cuomo and Milan, or the heady, seductive south, Sicily and Naples, the Italian jean is alive and well, even if it’s not, well, denim blue.
Italian women wear their jeans with carefully selected Italian made accessories. Naturalmente. Big scarves and shawls of luxurious silk, linen or cashmere. Oversize designer sunglasses, (everybody knows that the Italians have cornered the market on designer sunnies), and no woman would be without a fabulous handbag, made in Italy, of course.
Blue jeans are now a wardrobe staple for the women of Pakistan. A major fashion renaissance of massive proportions has exploded over the past five years meaning that women in this country are experiencing the freedom of independent style as in no other time in history. Like all other cultures, women are wearing their jeans in exciting ways unique to heritage. The pairing of classic blue jeans, a global staple, are happily marrying dynasty fabrics, accessories and coordinated pieces. This stunning combination takes the look of classic blue jeans to an exciting revamp. It’s the new power dressing in this country, reflecting the education, sophistication, and independence of the modern woman.
Rhinestones. Glitter. Pearls. It’s all about glitz in Colombia, and of course, butt lifters. The South American woman is sexy in a brash sort of way, displaying appliques of sparkling stones and complex embroidery all over her denims, especially on the back pockets. Women here like them skinny, tight and slightly cropped. The concept of the butt lifter jean is almost unique to this culture. Jeans are designed with a high waistband to cover the stomach, and then more cloth is added to the area on the buttocks. Finally, strategically placed pinched pleats in two or three places above the back pockets are slipped in designed to show off a curvy feminine silhouette. The statement here is look out! Here comes the alpha female.
India is a country defined by sharp contrasts. Traditional meets high-speed modern. Indian women have cleverly combined the glamour and delicacy of their traditional garments with the rough and tumble statement of blue jeans. The result is nothing less than breathtaking.
Indians are the terminal maximalists, and probably always will be. So, adding the opulence of heavily embroidered or bejeweled sari garments to the simplicity of blue jeans on the street makes an ultimate statement of where their culture sits in the world at the moment.
Kurtas, Sari’s and Lehengas have been re-styled allowing the modern Indian woman to explore a new identity. Sharp, state of the art, but always glamorous. This complex evolution of style is as intriguing as the country itself.