Denim cutoffs are the short of choice for summer. Don’t believe us? Check out Robin Givhan’s ode to the “fried dough of fashion.”

In honor of this declaration, we decided to dedicate this edition of #tbt to the beloved American staple, blue jeans.

We’re all vaguely familiar with the start of this magically versatile take on trousers and the impact of one German immigrant on the future of this country’s sartorial landscape. Levi Straus, who immigrated from Buttenheim, Bavaria, in 1847, took out a patent with Jacob Davis on the process of riveting pants in 1873. Thus the signature 501s, originally called “waist overalls,” were born.

Since then, jeans have woven in and out of the fabric of pop culture, representing various ideals and images to different generations. Most often the fabric has been tied to music.

As in last week’s post, denim and cutoffs for men were almost a requirement for the laid-back festival style of the late 1960s and 70s. Singers like Janis Joplin and Rita Coolidge adopted and spread the slouchy, patch-worked variety.


Rita Coolidge, on tour with the band “The Byrds,” on May 5, 1971, in London, England (AP Photo/Kemp).

But folk rock and jam bands were hardly the only genre to embrace the fabric. The “Queen of Rock n’ Roll” Joan Jett gave the look a harder edge with dark washes paired with leather and metallic trims.


Singer Joan Jett is shown in this Dec. 1986 photo (AP Photo).

Country music has long been tied to the jeans of farmers and cowboys. Willie Nelson famously worked with and promoted Wrangler jeans, even making his own brand in the early 80s.


Willie Nelson, country musician and American folk hero, is shown wearing his own brand of jeans in Dallas on June 5, 1980 (AP Photo).

The garment seemed to split in the 90s, with one path veering towards the distressed, holed variety of grunge bands like Nirvana. While high fashion simultaneously took a firm grasp. Has anyone been able to sell a pair of jeans like the indelible Kate Moss?


Kate Moss in overalls, 1994, by Anna Molinari Blumarine. Harper’s Bazaar, December 1994.

(Side note: We’re willing to stake a wager they’re on their way back in style. And the cutoff variety, obviously.)

Brands like Calvin Klein (which Moss was the face of) and Tommy Hilfiger built empires largely off of the sale of denim and other American sportswear pieces. Michael Kors jumped on the bandwagon, along with DKNY, as a growing market of designer jeans took hold.


Karolina Kurkova models a luggage leather patrol vest, hand-stitched denim jeans and fur leg warmers in the fall 2002 collection of Michael Kors in New York, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2002 (AP Photo/Richard Drew).

But one can not discuss the history of jeans without mentioning of one of the best photographs of all time: that of one Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, clad head to toe in a variety of washes, complete with denim cowboy hat and handbag.  Can a better image of denim fashion ever emerge? We are doubtful, though would never rule out the opportunity.


Britney Spears and singer Justin Timberlake of the group NSYNC arrive backstage at the 28th Annual American Music Awards on January 8, 2001, in Los Angeles (Lucy Nicholson/Getty Images).

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