Blue Jean-e-ology

By Diane Chapman

Skinny, Curvy, Jeggings, Ripped, and Wedgie (Huh?)
Come on! Get on board!

“Diane, the right pair of jeans is critical to your wardrobe.” Leave it to my sister to advise me about what I was wearing. It was the late 1980s, and I was still dressing in baggy Levi’s (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) when the rest of the retail, women’s jean inventory had blown through the roof. “You need to find jeans that show off your assets.” Nicely said in code. A dynamo at five-two, she never pulled any punches with her five-foot-eight sister (me), particularly on the subject of wardrobe. She was the one reading Women’s Wear Daily, while I was reading about the perfect form for bicep curls. She finds the process of shopping to be as good as life gets and finding the perfect deal exhilarating. I rarely shop because I don’t take time to pop into stores to see what’s new. So when my sister spoke, I listened. And, I still listen now.

So there she was, in the 80s, lecturing me about jeans. You know what I’m talkin’ about. It was time for me to swap the shapeless, old-school Levi’s for those awesome, ever-evolving, always irresistible fashion statements, wardrobe staples for both men and women, and tight women’s must-haves that make us squeal with delight when they fit our bums just so. Yes, indeed. I decided I better take my sister’s advice, and get on board.

I mean, tell me, where were YOU when Brooke Shields (as a young teen in super-tight jeans) was photographed with her legs wide open in a seriously provocative pose? Where was her mother? Oh, she was right there—managing her daughter’s career. “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” said the 14-year-old, softly. Between her billboards and revolutionary eyebrows (right?), women’s fashion changed forever.

I lived in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas during Brooke’s scandalous billboards, doing the two-step. I wasn’t very good at it (mind you), but it was a Texas tradition. We Scandinavian girls really weren’t meant for country-western moves (especially since the “two-step” is really a three-step move done to a traditional four-step beat). Go figure. But my jeans were slim, with a leg width just wide enough to fit over my snakeskin boots. The men wore nice and tight jeans (which they had dry cleaned) with pronounced creases up the front.

So where in the heck was I when the jean-e-ology smarts started goin’ ‘round? I recall envying college roommates and girls on campus who could afford to wear Jordache and Britannica jeans. How did they do that? I was working at Burger King to make sure I was getting a meal every day, along with a few bucks. I think I was clueless until I was about 40, and then God bless Anne Klein and Gloria Vanderbilt. Another upscale brand, Guess appeared on the scene in the 80s, and Hudson in 2002. With higher price tags came more mystique.

Nowadays, jean inventories have exploded. Who’da thought the market could’ve gotten any bigger and more creative? There are boot cut, skinny, flare, high rise, mid-rise, low rise, boyfriend, jeggings, curvy, unhemmed, fringed, cropped, cuffed, and ripped. Bell bottoms are back. Target has reinvented itself with burgeoning Denizen and Universal Thread displays. Jean-e-ology is growing.

I won’t say that I’ve warmed up to every style as it’s hit public consciousness. Far from it. I was certain that ripped jeans would be gone in a flash. Who wants to walk around in beat-up clothing? Well, it turns out – you do, he does, she does, corporate elites do, and my sister does. So, I climbed on the wagon. I’m waiting for a complete ripfest.

In the meantime, reports that thirty-three percent of American workers want to wear jeans to work and would forgo raises for it. Jeans can be a deal-breaker. Really?

One day my sister made another pronouncement to me: “Diane, get rid of your black jeans. They’re ‘rocker’ jeans, and their moment has passed.” I thought about the day I saw Joan Jett at Tower Records in Manhattan. The tiny woman was indeed dressed in black jeans.

So, let’s trace jean-e-ology back to the 1950s/60s and the olden days. The “glam” of jeans started with the bell-bottoms that went with peacoats in the 60s, especially in Hollywood. Marilyn Monroe rocked tight jeans (with photos of her tush that will knock your socks off). There definitely wasn’t anything that came between her and her jeans. Google it.

The great, great, (great?) grandfather (I never know how genealogists figure out the number of “greats”) of jeans is Levi Strauss, who immigrated here from Bavaria in 1847 and settled in San Francisco during the Gold Rush. Hey, those miners out there in the dirt, mud, (yuck) water, and rocks needed pants that could stand up to the rigors of mining. So, Levi started making clothes out of tent fabric. It worked.

Now, if you haven’t googled the term “Levi’s” in an online search recently, your mind will be blown with what you find. How did I miss this? Levi’s will be at the top of the jean-e-ology chart with all jeans springing from the loins of the brand. Bow down to the almighty of jeandom, my friends. You’ll find vintage, well-worn Levi’s selling for thousands of dollars (no matter what the style). As long as that infamous label is still attached at the waist, you’re golden. Baggy, tight, skinny, 501, 550, wedgie, and more. Wedgie? Levi’s defines them as jeans “that lift the bootie by separating the cheeks just enough to give you a wedgie.”

Okay, that falls into the “torturous things women wear” category, ladies (right next to Spanx).

However, if they’ll give me better-looking butt cheeks, I’m in.

Di Chapman is an inspirational author and speaker, and a branding consultant. Di’s latest book is Rekindle Your Purpose: Break through your disappointments, discouragements, and detours to resurrect your purpose and live it! Contact Di at