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The Fluctuations of Style and the Permanence of Vintage Clothing

In today’s fast-paced society, fashion trends move in and out like the tides. What is in today, might be completely un-cool tomorrow. However, despite the rapid mobility in clothing styles, and quickly passing fads, there are some looks that either never really go out of style, or cycle back in after going out of fashion.

Blue jeans are good examples of most of these traits. Invented in 1873 by Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis, jeans were originally used as working wear, and did not have any sort of fashion connection. However, around the middle of the 20th century, jeans became part of mainstream fashion, with different types of jeans being specific to various subcultures throughout the next few decades. Since the 1950s jeans have always been popular, but have fluctuated wildly in style.

Some blue jeans are very wide in the leg, and are designed to be worn loosely around the hips instead of at the waist. This style was very popular in the early 90s and continues to be popular among “gangster” subculture. Levi’s 501 shrink-to-fit jeans were very popular in the 70s, and are still popular among those who like a classic look. They have an average to thin profile, and are not really extreme in any way (although they may be too tight through the thigh for athletically built individuals). Skinny jeans are popular among the “hipster” subculture, usually a younger demographic.

Colors for jeans have ranged from dark blue to lighter blue in the 80s to a wide range in present fashion. Generally a darker wash is considered more formal and lighter jeans are better for casual settings.

Shirts come and go fashion-wise as well. In the 60s and 70s, the style for men’s T-shirts was close-fitting, with no extra loose fabric. This changed in the 80s and 90s as styles began to feature loose, baggy clothing. This style was somewhat of a reaction to the tighter fits of the earlier decades. Then, in the late 90s to early 21st century, the style changed back to almost what it had been 20 to 30 years earlier, probably as a reaction again. The point is that clothing only has a limited amount of styles and fits (tight or loose, short or long, etc) and so tends to simply fluctuate. However the fluctuations are such that most new generations of people don’t realize they are simply copying what their parents or grandparents wore at that age.

Aficionados of vintage clothing understand that vintage jackets, pants and shirts will stay in style and be wearable for years, perhaps even decades.