Trend Report: The Re-emergence of Denim Footwear

Image courtesy of pinterest.com

Denim has long been a staple of the American wardrobe. In 1873, Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss invented what later became known as jeans, which became a gold standard for those in blue collar jobs such as mining. Throughout the 20th century, denim would become the go-to material for cheap durable uniforms and a symbol of the working class. In the 1950s teenagers began embracing blue jeans when Hollywood began using them as a symbol of fashionable rebellion. It was James Dean, Marlon Brando, Elvis Presley, and Debbie Reynolds in the “Tammy” movies that introduced to consumers that denim looked good as casual attire.

70s denim shoe style images courtesy of etsy.com and ebay.com

The trend of jeans as a fashion statement didn’t catch on for women until the 1960s. This was the beginning of the hippie age, and wearing jeans was a symbol of freedom, rebellion,  and personal expression. In the late 60s jeans were embellished with embroideries, rhinestones, and were stonewashed with frayed seams and also in bright colors. By the ‘70s jeans became a staple of Americana, and denim as a material and moved beyond just jean pants. There were jeans jackets, and denim footwear.

While the thought of denim shoes was still unconventional, the idea would slowly gain market traction. Head-to-toe denim looks would become known as the Canadian tuxedo, which not only included jean pants and a denim jacket or shirt, but denim footwear, as well. As denim’s popularity grew throughout the ‘90s, denim sneakers and boots grew in popularity.

Images courtesy of cosmopolitan.com

Consider, the iconic head-to-toe denim look donned by Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake at the 2001 American Music Awards that redefined the Canadian tuxedo look for the 21st century. The looks would be recreated by Riff Raff and Katy Perry for the 2014 VMAs, this time with Perry in denim stilettoes.

What was once an occasional fashion item has become a staple of many American’s wardrobes. Denim footwear is no longer seen as being rebellious or necessarily fashion forward, but a go-to addition to a shoe collection to sit alongside your neutral colored shoes. What makes them so approachable now is that denim has become categorized as a neutral.

Image courtesy of glamour.com

Like many fashion trends, the recent surge in denim footwear was a trickle-down effect. In 2017 when musician and fashion icon Rihanna collaborated with Manolo Blahnik on a set of shoes, they designed a pair of denim boots that became a widely discussed fashion topic. Tom Ford’s much talked about spring/summer 2018 collection featured Canadian tuxedos with everything denim, including the shoes. Dior creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri turned heads when she debuted the brand’s J’adior denim pumps that became a must-have for the Instagram influencers. Even Versace released a pair of white denim boots available at Luisaviaroma that became a hot item.

From the luxury fashion houses, denim footwear trickled down to contemporary designers. Phillip Lim designed a pair of denim slip-ons, a chic homage to the denim slip-ons of the 70s. The crowning moment of democratizing the trend for Millennials came when Jeffrey Campbell created a pair of denim slip-ons that would go semi-viral thanks to Instagram influencer Pretty in the Pines, a.k.a. Shelby.

Images courtesy of chicoshoes.com, dghate.com, and shopstyle.com, respectively

Denim footwear is now a staple of the Jeffrey Campbell brand with styles including sneakers, boots, sandals, and mules. Multi-brand retailers—Macy’s, Bergdorf Goodman—are realizing the necessity of carrying a good denim shoe, with some behemoth department store chains offering an entire range of denim footwear. Whether you need a pair of denim Toms or a pair of backless Balenciaga denim flats, there is lots of variety.

Denim footwear in universal shopping search engine Shopstyle gets over 5900 results for women and 1600 results for men. That is not just the work of excellent search engine optimization, but an industry that has realized that denim footwear has become an expected product offering. Denim shoes are arguably one of the most democratized fashion items in the business right now, with even suburban fathers taking notice. Just in time for Father’s Day, New Balance released a denim special colorway of their Air Monarch IV, otherwise known as their dad sneaker.

Image courtesy of nike.com

Denim footwear may not be new, but it has found a larger audience. What was once a sporadic trend has now become a wardrobe must have.

 

—Kristopher Fraser

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