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Nadia Blocker

Three London creatives explain what denim means to them

In celebration of 50 years of Gap, we explore denim’s place in youth culture today

In 1969, a writer for American Fabrics magazine wrote: “Denim is one of the world’s oldest fabrics, yet it remains eternally young.” The same year, Gap was founded in San Francisco, and for five decades has embodied the spirit of this quote, with denim that appeals to each upcoming generation’s expressive spirit. 

As Gap celebrates its 50th year, now it debuts a new campaign titled It’s Our Denim Now, shot by Tyler Mitchell. Alongside this, a huge offering of Gap denim – including its Premium 1969 line and Denim Through The Decades, a capsule collection made up of styles lifted from its extensive archive – has also been released. 

We asked writer Harry Smart, model Nadia Blocker, and model and activist Helene Selam Kleih to choose three pieces from the collection, and invited them to snap a selfie showing how they styled their look. 

These images are published below, along with their thoughts on the denim brand’s place in youth culture – yesterday, right now, and in the future.

HARALD

Tell us about yourself. What do you do? Where are you from?

I’m originally from Edinburgh and first moved to London seven years ago; I’ve been working as a freelance writer and editor and am about to take up an MA in writing at the Royal College of Art. I also work as a DJ after hours. 

Tell us about your work, what are the main themes you explore?

I always enjoyed creative writing and studying literature growing up, but the first time I really considered it seriously career-wise was towards the end of my art history degree in 2016. There was something about the process of responding to visual culture and using it as a lens to understand complex ideas that really excited me. 

What does denim represent to you? 

I guess denim was once synonymous with mythical ‘all-American’ guys, like the ones Lana Del Rey sings about. I love that it originated as a hardy work staple but it’s been reinterpreted and restyled so many times, and so many tribes have claimed it as their own. I suppose that makes it quite unifying. Denim belongs to no one, but also belongs to everyone.

How does wearing it make you feel?

It really depends on the style and the context. But you can’t really argue with that feeling when the jean fits just right and the zip slides up in a single fluid motion – few things compare to that.

What was the first denim item you owned? 

I would imagine a very tiny pair of jeans. Or some baby dungarees.

What GAP piece are you wearing now?

I’m wearing the 80s Worker Standard Jeans in ‘Cancun Cove Blue’, which is quite a fab name for a hue. I’ve never been to Cancun but I can channel the oceanic energy in these bad boys.

Why did you choose to wear it? 

I’ve always been quite into this shape, it’s pretty versatile. I think they’ll age well too.

How did you choose to style it and why?

I’ve had a thing for really tiny t-shirts for a while now. I’m super tall so it probably makes me look a bit weird, but I like the silhouette. This one is from a thrift store in NY and seems like it once belonged to a ten year-old band geek… I also don’t need much of an excuse to wear a leather trench coat, and it just got a little colder… So that’s nice!

Can you sum up your look in three words?

Hot Nerd Autumn. 

Who is your denim-wearing idol from history? 

Probably anyone marching for LGBTQ+ rights in a pair of tight flares in the 70s.

How do you think we’ll wear denim in the future?

It depends on how much we’re able to revolutionise the supply chains and production cycles of the fashion industry, but I’m inspired by contemporary designers who are experimenting with reusing fabrics in really groundbreaking ways. That’s the only viable fashion future for me. I’d love to see everyone wearing recycled or repurposed denim à la Britney and Justin. 

NADIA 

Tell us about yourself: what do you do? Where are you from?

I’m Nadia. I’m 21 and grew up mostly in London, but my Dad is from Los Angeles, so I spend most of my summers there. I just graduated from Newcastle University with a BA in biomedical science, but I’m still figuring out where I’m going next. I got scouted during freshers week, but never really took modelling seriously until the last year or so… I’ve realised that just because I’ve graduated doesn’t mean I need to go straight into the graduate job that most expect of me. I don’t want a 9-5 just yet, I want to explore as much as I can!

What does denim represent to you?

To me it represents versatility and timelessness. I love that it has existed across almost all subcultures, from cowboys to post-WW2 Japanese youth, rock stars to rappers. It belongs nowhere specifically, but has found its place in almost every wardrobe. Everyone has a favourite pair of jeans, and every pair tells a story of the wearer through the way it uniquely creases and fades and frays. 

How does wearing it make you feel?

I feel like the more I wear my jeans the cooler they get. Mostly, I love that there’s nothing inherently gendered about denim. It’s powerful and sort of rebellious. It’s saying, ‘maybe all I’m gonna wear today is these baggy jeans and this vest top and I’m gonna look fire’, with nothing to prove to anybody and no boxes to fit in. 

What was the first denim item you owned?

I had a pair of denim dungarees when I was very young. My mum says I used to want to wear them every day, and so I pretty much did. 

What is your first memory of GAP?

I remember going to the GAP in Angel when I was eight, and picking out two long sleeve graphic t-shirts from the boy’s section. There is a home video of me later that day dancing around the living room to the “Cha Cha Slide”. I actually remember that day really clearly, I felt so cool!

Who is your denim-wearing idol from history?

TLC circa the early 1990s for sure. The baggy denim overalls with condom packets attached? SO iconic  – and we love advocates for safe sex. The DIY spray-painted XXL jeans and denim shirts? They really said wear your denim however you want, and if you don’t like it, change it. 

What GAP denim are you wearing right now? 

80s Worker High Rise Wide-Leg Jeans.

How do you think we'll wear denim in the future?

I think we will always wear denim, because it’s so sturdy and timeless. There’s something not just fashionable, but also utilitarian about it that just makes it such a practical fabric for literally anything. There will always be a place for denim. 

HELENE

What does denim represent to you?

Denim is the fabric of my childhood: every colour, doubling it up, denim on denim on denim. 

How does wearing it make you feel? 

Comfortable and safe, but still sexy. Whatever the fit, denim is a go-to in my wardrobe. 

What was the first denim item you owned? 

A fake denim Evisu cap from Peckham market with a diamanté butterfly on the rim. I started buying them again last year. My Ridley Road Star cap has definitely been spotted on a few heads. 

What is your first memory of GAP? 

My twin brother’s yellow dungarees that I refused to take off from the ages of four to seven! I wore them to an own-clothes day in primary school even though they were filthy. I snuck them out the house and hid them in the car boot, so my mum took them straight to a charity shop that same evening – it was obviously an unhealthy obsession.  

What GAP piece are you wearing now?

Sky High Distressed Cheeky Straight Jeans.

Why did you choose it?

The name alone sold it for me – they’re cheeky. And a straight leg, because I can’t live in skinny jeans forever. 

How did you choose to style it and why?

Some glitter, some gold, a Tupac tee and we’re done. Easy, practical, and a look that I can wear wherever – either on my bike or to a dinner. 

Can you sum up your look in three words? 

Your favourite auntie. 

Who is your denim-wearing idol from history?

Destiny’s Child. Whether that was the double denim ’tramp stamp’ low rise booty jeans and waistcoat, or the tomboy, baggy dungaree, Aaliyah in Tommy Hilfiger look. My 2000s were spent watching ladies in power denim numbers – Xtina, Lil Kim, and Britney bitch.

How do you think we'll wear denim in the future? 

I think denim will become even more comfortable and practical – GAP is already leading the way with these secret smoothing pockets too. Stiffness just isn’t a thing with them. 

Shop Gap Denim in-store and online now, and watch new campaign film It’s Our Denim Now here.