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In the context of globalization smoothing national differences, it may seem too far-fetched to view modern clothing as an integral constituent of culture. Now, its primary function is to emphasize personal identity and uniqueness instead of indicating the wearer’s belonging to this or that background. Despite this re-evaluation of the role of clothes, it is still relevant to speak about their ability to indicate values of the society (Paul 14).
If we come to think about clothing that reflects American culture, it will be difficult to find an item as commonly worn and loved as blue jeans. Starting as a working garment, they have gradually developed into an icon of modern America and spread all over the world. The paper at hand is going to examine the idea standing behind the blue jeans and prove that they have become an important component of popular culture in the US as they reflect all core American values: freedom, independence, comfort, equality, and sexuality.
Identification of the Item: Target Market and Advertising
If we attempt to define jeans, the description will be rather simplistic: jeans are trousers made of denim cloth originally designed to be worn by miners and cowboys. The “blue jeans” style was patented by Jacob W. Davis and Levi Strauss in 1973 even though the term had been in use for a long time to signify various types of denim clothes. Jeans were traditionally dyed blue with the help of natural indigo dye; however, nowadays, it is more typical to use synthetic dyes and can be of any imaginable color (Moore 28). The “acid wash” style is achieved as a result of using special chemicals. As for models, there now exists a huge variety of forms: with high or low waist, slim, tapered, straight, baggy, etc. – all gaining popularity depending upon the current fashion.
As far as the target market is concerned, jeans were initially introduced as clothes for the working or middle class since their design made them a perfect outfit for farmers, miners, builders, railroad workers, and other people who were connected with hard physical labor. However, the audience changed drastically in the middle of the 20th century when jeans became a symbol of the greaser (1950s), hippie (1960s), and punk (1970s) subcultures and gradually began to win hearts of all teenagers (Moore 44).
Nowadays, the target market is huge indeed: people of any age and social status wear jeans, and their prices range from moderate to extremely expensive. Many manufacturers currently target so-called high-end consumers. These are people representing the high class who typically prefer wearing clothes belonging to premium, highly expensive brands. This group of consumers is easy to reach if the brand has achieved recognition. Another new substantial category of present-day customers is comprised of elderly people who choose an active lifestyle and want to be modern and fashionable. They usually prefer lightweight models of jeans. Thus, companies producing jeans can now pick any niche to win the attention of different groups of the population (Moore 45).
Interestingly, jeans were never advertised for their low price as with their first step into fashion, they began to vary significantly in cost ceasing to be a garment for the poor.
Evaluation of the Item: National Ideology and Culture
Even though jeans have won the global audience, they continue to be associated with America as they once sparked American society both in cultural and economic aspects. Although they were originally worn by the poor indicating their low social status, the picture changed dramatically over time. After some Hollywood stars (including Marlon Brando and James Dean) made a statement appearing in public dressed in jeans, they became a stylish piece of clothing, which could be worn for comfort and pleasure, not for work (Moore 47). Moreover, jeans are now tightly connected with the image of an average American citizen as they reflect his/her political and cultural attitudes based on independence, democracy, equality, and comfort. They currently stand for racial, gender, and class equality since representatives of all social strata, genders, and races can wear jeans. Moreover, due to their popularity among movie actors, singers, and other pop stars, jeans are associated with sexuality and success.
Significance of the Item
One of the most amazing things about jeans is their universal character as a national symbol. As it has already been mentioned, jeans came to symbolize the rebellious spirit of the youth, their sexuality, and their independence. Nevertheless, their reflection of traditional values (hard labor and belief in success) made them popular among older generations, too. They became a significant part of the American dream and a symbol of consumerist culture: jeans are associated with well-being, democratic lifestyle, happy family life, harmony, and physical activity (Moore 68).
More and more celebrities, movie stars, and showmen wear jeans to show their belonging to the popular culture and to promote casual style. However, at the same time, they are still associated with war (American soldiers often wore them being off duty) hinting at the potential heroism of each citizen. The same can be said in the context of the 9/11 tragedy: jeans were worn by the rescue team, which emphasized their initial purpose and meaning. The only sphere that has only partially accepted jeans is our corporate culture. In many organizations, it is still unacceptable to violate the dress code. However, in more democratic companies, jeans are allowed along with suits and ties (Paul 61).
Moore, Jennifer Grayer. Fashion Fads Through American History: Fitting Clothes into Context. ABC-CLIO, 2015.
Paul, Roshan. Denim: Manufacture, Finishing and Applications. Elsevier, 2015.