The History of Jeans Advertising in Pictures
How Jeans Have Been Advertised Through the Decades
Women’s jeans — and the way they’re marketed to us by advertisers — have come a long way, baby. From their humble beginnings as work wear for cowboys, to their current status as an essential fashion staple in our wardrobes, we’ve looked at blue jeans in so many different way through the decades. We think you’ll agree that the history of jeans advertising is just as fascinating as the evolution of jeans themselves,when you take a look through this collection of vintage jeans ads, from the birth of jeans in the 1930’s until the present day.
1930s: The Birth of Women’s Jeans
In 1934, the first pair of women’s jeans — and women’s jeans advertising — are born when Levi Strauss & Co. invents Lady Levi’s jeans, which are marketed in the Western United States to women working on ranches. The company had been manufacturing jeans for men since the 1870’s.
1940s: Jeans for Country Living
Lee Jeans became a leading U.S. manufacturer of “work clothes” in the 1940s. This campaign, aimed at a rural audience, pictures a few women — but only one who’s actually wearing jeans. Notice how she’s tending to her man, with her back to you, the viewer. But those cuffed boyfriend jeans are styling.
1950s: Jeans for Leisure Wear
Jeans evolved from being work clothes to leisure wear in the 1950’s. The model’s gaze is still away from the camera, but this time she’s facing the viewer. This jeans ad seems to make a case for her “right” to wear blue jeans — at least, when she’s packing a picnic lunch.
1960s: Jeans Advertising Targets Youth
In the 1960s, denim brands started advertising to the new youth culture. Wrangler Jeans introduces their new Avondale fabric into their women’s jeans collection, a polyester/cotton blend designed to stay smooth, eliminating the need for ironing. Clearly, men are supposed to enjoy the smoothness, too, in this ad from 1964.
1970s: Jeans Go Counter Culture
As the youth movement creates a revolution in pop culture, some denim designers seize the opportunity to attract attention by creating controversy, as in this 1971 campaign by Jesus Jeans. The company didn’t last for long, but their jeans advertising — created by Oliviero Toscani, who would later generate shock value in his campaigns for United Colors of Benetton — left a memorable impression.
1970s: Jeans as Americana
Some denim brands stayed true to their classic roots in the 1970’s. In this 1978 campaign, Lee Jeans makes an appeal to Americans craving a return to wholesome American values — note the return of the picnic basket, and the retro Prince Charming set-up. This is also a great example of how people used to wear double denim.
1980s: Brooke Shields for Calvin Klein
In 1980, the Calvin Klein jeans company launched its famously provocative advertising campaign, featuring 14-year old Brooke Shields. The TV commercial had her saying, “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” Calvin Klein went on to become one of the hottest designer jeans brands of the decade.
1980s: Jordache Jeans
Jordache Jeans were massively popular in the 1980’s. The brand was popular with disco-goers for its tight-fitting jeans that showed off the wearer’s backside, with distinctive embroidery on the back pockets. This ad injects the brand’s signature smug sexuality into a classic Western scene.
1980s: Back to Basics
This Levi’s jeans campaign from 1983 seems to react against the excesses of the decade. It makes an emotional appeal for the “timeless, dependable, uncomplicated” qualities of the Levi’s 505 jean. If you ever wondered when mom jeans first appeared, wonder no more.
1990s: Bombshell Jeans
A Marilyn Monroe-styled Anna Nicole Smith busts out as the new Guess Jeans model in the early 1990s, in a series of ads that ignites sales for the company.
1990s: Sex Sells
Sexy Italian couture brand Versace launches a designer jeans collection, with a series of ads featuring various pairs of bombshell female fashion models posed in compromising — and often acrobatically impressive — combinations. Here, Nadia Auermann and Claudia Schiffer show off impossibly long legs.
Waif chic (also called heroin chic) invades denim advertising, as Calvin Klein features an impossibly skinny (and often naked) Kate Moss in a series of sexually provocative ads for his designer denim line.
2000s: Vintage Attitude
Supermodel Gisele Bundchen poses in this 2009 ad for the True Religion Jeans Vintage line, which combines sensuality with major, bohemian chic attitude.
2010s: Curve Conscious
Levi’s responds to the growing consumer desire for customization, as well as a growing plus-sized market, by creating its Curve ID line of body shaping jeans “based on shape, not size.”
2010s: British Cool
Genetically engineered model Georgia May Jagger (spawn of Rolling Stone Mick Jagger and supermodel Jerry Hall) gives gap-toothed, Union Jack-clad attitude in this recent rocker-cool, Euro-chic advertising campaign for Hudson Jeans.