From James Dean to Clarissa, we chart denim's top ten cult moments in response to the Paris menswear shows
Denim's cult-status has been revived for SS15, with Yohji Yamamoto giving a nod to all things double and triple denim and Junya Watanabe playing with patched-up proportions of the societal staple. A fabric that has defined and redefined eras, people and moments in pop history, from a smoking hot, shirtless Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise to off-the-grid moments like Britney and Justin's 2001 AMA attire – denim's relationship with fashion has been nothing short of iconic. Here, we chart the definitive guide to the world's favourite fabric.
KATE MOSS AND MARK WAHLBERG FOR CALVIN KLEIN
Kate Moss and Mark Wahlberg's seductive yet controversial 1992 Calvin Klein campaign, shot by Herb Ritts, might of looked all young love and sexual tension with their matching jeans and CK logos peeping underneath, but it was Klein himself who admitted that the pair couldn't stand one another. "They hold me snug," admits a topless Wahlberg, grabbing the crotch on his "hype shorts" as an also-topless Moss circles him. But while the chemistry between the pair might not of been genuine, the backlash that surrounded the commercial was. Critics panned Moss' waif-thin frame alongside Wahlberg's openly sexual innuendo and the inevitable happened, the brand's image skyrocketed – ingraining the advert into pop-culture's memory as one of our favourite denim moments.
AALIYAH IN TOMMY HILFIGER
Nobody repped Tommy like 'baby girl' Aaliyah did, and when the singer rocked the iconic Hilfiger flag in a trio of bandeau, boxer shorts and baggy jeans, the brand's denim department went viral. With everyone from TLC, Destiny's Child and Usher being immortalised in Tommy's red, blue and white, there's no denying the brand’s impact on redefining hip-hop's association with denim in the 90s. In a retrospective interview with Bloomberg News, however, the designer looked back unfavourably on the era that launched his brand into mega stardom; "There is an image and attitude to most brands, and that’s really important. I like to stick to my heritage and not chase trends, and at that point we were chasing trends. Chasing trends was easy, but it was dangerous.”
CLARISSA FROM CLARISSA EXPLAINS IT ALL
An icon to a generation of teenage and pre-teen girls in the early 90s, Clarissa Darling was as notable for her wardrobe as she was for her pre-adolescent advice on all things boys, pimples and little brothers. In a never-ending wardrobe of denim; acid wash, mis-matched, light, dark – Clarissa had it all. Accessorised with teenybopper prints and 80s neon with an array of so-90s-cool hairstyles (crimping, anyone?), the show remains a landmark in teen fashion. In the below scene, Clarissa and 'will-they-won't-they' best friend Sam wind up in jail in matching denim jackets and sizeable, grunge-style rips. All right! All right!
BRAD PITT IN THELMA AND LOUISE
Ridley Scott's 1991 film Thelma and Louise is a denim lover's dream. While ultimately the film is a tale of all-out girl power, Geena Davis (Thelma) and Susan Sarandon’s (Louise) well-intentioned road trip soon turns into running from the law, and duo run into then-unknown Brad Pitt as “I’m a robber” JD, a super sexy hitchhiker, that Thelma can't resist stopping for. The next morning, as the two lie in bed JD explains to Thelma, in that southern drawl, how he robs people. A topless Pitt whips around a hairdryer as a pistol, wearing nothing but a white cowboy hat and a pair of super-tight-top-button-undone jeans. But if that doesn't steal your heart, Pitt's admission, "I may be an outlaw, darlin', but you're the one stealing my heart" will – just before he steals your purse.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN'S BORN IN THE USA
Nothing screams the deep-seated spirit of denim quite like Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA cover. Shot by Annie Leibovitz for the 1984 album of the same name, the image encompassed the feeling of the much-loved American dream. The photo has also faced controversy as cynics pick apart its meaning; with a theory once emerging that he was urinating on the flag. But the duality between the nation’s colours and Springsteen’s all-American persona is geniusly reflected in the singer’s roughed-up working man denim, tight white t-shirt and red baseball cap that hangs from his pocket – with the patriotic snapshot going down as one of the greatest album covers in Western music’s history.
CLAUDIA SCHIFFER FOR GUESS? JEANS
When Ellen Von Unwerth shot Claudia Schiffer for Georges Marciano's Guess? Jeans campaign in 1989, it turned both model and brand into cult icons, with Schiffer going on to front six campaigns for the house. Not only did the model join the ranks of the 90s fashion scene but she remains revered alongside the likes of Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Elle Macpherson as one of the ‘original supermodels’ – the quartet even opened an ill-fated restaurant called Fashion Café. While Von Unwerth and Schiffer teamed up 23-years later with the brand for its 30th anniversary in 2012, in our eyes it’s those original images of the blonde bombshell frolicking, hair in her eyes and jeans high-waisted that will forever remain in our minds, and cult denim history.
BRITNEY SPEARS AND JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE AT AMAS
They were America's sweethearts, a match made in Mickey Mouse Club heaven, with Britney dominating the charts as the Princess of Pop and Justin riding high with N*Sync. Double-denim was given a whole new meaning when the pair arrived at the American Music Awards in 2001 wearing almost-matching outfits – well, Justin's came with a hat. While Britney redeemed herself by stripping down to just her jean bottoms and bra-top for an electric performance of "Stronger", this denim-disaster-cum-cult-moment is definitely one of denim’s more off-the-grid moments.
ALEXANDER MCQUEEN'S 'BUMSTER'
Although originally designed in silk taffeta, the 'bumster' redefined denim – just look towards the low-rise jean phenomenon of the 90s and 00s. Originally introduced in his SS94 'Nihilism' show, the ‘bumster’ – which evolved into denim and brocade versions – sat two inches lower than a traditional 'hipster' cut, with McQueen explaining, "To me, that part of the body – not so much the buttocks but the bottom of the spine – that’s the most erotic part of anyone’s body, man or woman”. McQueen’s vision for a longer torso and shorter legs were believed to of come from homoerotic ideals of vanity, with McQueen admitting to the BBC, "You want a longer leg, but I wanted a longer top part". Although footage of the SS94 show is rare, an archive video can be seen here – or witness the bumster's evolution two years later in McQueen's SS96 show, 'The Hunger'.
JAMES DEAN IN REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE
James Dean's Lee Riders 101 redefined the attitude of a generation. While denim was already mainstreamed thanks to Western stars like John Wayne, it was Dean's portrayal of a rebellious, middle-class teenager in the 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause that changed youth's perception and spearheaded a clothing staple of the counter-culture. In denim and red bomber jacket, Dean gave new meaning to the fabric which was originally used as uniform for the Navy Seals, giving it an anti authoritarian-like stance which even to this day, goes against dress codes in certain hotels and restaurants around the world. In the below scene, bored teenagers and a nonchalant Dean indulge in a game of "chickie run", racing stolen cars towards a cliff to see who dives first.
ZACK MORRIS FROM SAVED BY THE BELL
90s pinup and all-around heartthrob Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) from 90s sitcom Saved By The Bell gave new meaning to the term high school crush, with his multi-toned denim, oversized shirts and occasional use of scrunch socks. Although we’d have no chance against his sweetheart Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen) – who was always equally as enviable in fluorescent pink, tiny shorts and crop tops – Morris’ ever-present tan and bright blonde locks never failed to make us swoon, even after school was out. Below Zack runs for class President, now, who wouldn't vote for that?