In a fairly recent magazine article, a fashion journalist noted that the prevalence of stonewashed denim among Hollywood leading men amounted to an embarrassment for the very image-conscious film-making industry. Pictures of starry-wonders such as George Clooney pottering around in light blue and rather shabby jeans were items of evidence and though the question central to the piece was ‘What is wrong with our leading men?’, the real question I was tapping my fingers over was; ‘Whatever happened to those very blue jeans?’ You know the sort of thing I mean – solid blue colour, unwashed, with brightly contrasting turn-ups: the sort of thing worn in the 1950s and early 60s with penny loafers and baseball jackets. I remember Grace Kelly wearing a pair at the end of Rear Window; reclining gloriously whilst reading a fashion publication. Their strength of tone epitomised the artistic character of that era; Pop art reigned supreme and American culture was an appealing export. Colour representations were apt to be bright and simplistic – rather like a cartoon or a child’s drawing. Lichtenstein’s ’industrial paintings’, and Rosenquist’s billboard-influenced collaging come to mind when imagining this bluest of blue denim.
Though friends of mine contend that such denim must still be available somewhere (what isn’t in our aggressively productive world?), it is rather hard to find. Brands like Cheap Monday and Dr Denim manufacture brightly toned blue denim but it is nowhere near the texture or particular tone. In fact, when searching online for denim of any kind, jeans seem embarrassed of ’blueness.’ Though marketed as indigo, so many jeans avoid true blue dyes. They’re darker and more steely; many are practically dark grey. Recent denim trends have pointedly avoided blue – all tones of grey, black and even brown have replaced azure as the standard for jeans. And to me, this is a great shame. True-blue denim is irreplaceable; the only alternatives seem to be wearing a darker hue or returning to the dreaded Tom Selleck-esque light stone washes. Both are depressingly inappropriate for the outfits I have in mind which, in actual fact, centre around the pre-Preppy Americana and are thoroughly appropriate for the coming warmth; red gingham shirts, burgundy loafers and tortoiseshell Wayfarers: an homage to the mid-Twentieth century of ‘American cool’ – without, of course, the drop top Chevy and the slick backed hair.