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Jeans: A Cultural History of an American Icon Hardcover – August 17, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham; 1St Edition edition (August 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592402143
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592402144
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,209,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

According to Sullivan, Brigham Young was on the right track in 1830 when he called a pair of trousers with buttons on the front "fornication pants." The denim blue jean studied here is the perfect mix of form and function (five pockets, durable fabric and comfortable fit), democratically priced (ranging from less than $30 to $1,000-plus for artfully torn and destroyed designer jobs), American, iconic and, most importantly, sexy. In his telling of the story behind the storied garment, Sullivan introduces readers to "Big E" Levi's collectors (who only wear Levi's produced before 1971), provides a surprisingly nuanced history of indigo dye and charts the ascension of "lifestyle brands" like Diesel and Lucky that made $100 (and then $200) jeans commonplace. He also devotes plenty of attention to how Levi's, once the dominant denim purveyor, is now struggling to keep a foothold in the market it created. Sullivan, a San FranciscoChronicle culture reporter, keeps the writing brisk and the major players (and their places within large apparel conglomerates) distinct while ranging across continents and decades, giving devotees the definitive account of the development of the denim that decorates their derrieres. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Formerly an East Coaster and now a West Coaster, editor Halpern tells the story of her love-hate affairs with clothing, from the very beginning in long-gone Philadelphia stores such as Bonwit Teller and Strawbridge & Clothier. Her story is recorded in chapters that each stand for every two years or so; for instance, 1982 is the year of LaCoste polo shirts; the tenth grade, an infatuation with Madonna; the makeshift prom dress; not to forget fake Pradas, six-inch heels, Target underwear, among many other items. Parallel anecdotes highlight her relationships with men--Adam, Evan, Pete--all of whom gravitate to her looks and, yes, overall appearance. What might resonate, in a morose psychological sense, is her dependence on style, not substance--a lesson for either gender searching for a long-term relationship.

Sullivan, on the other hand, applies a documentary-like examination to the indigo-cotton pants we call jeans, the ultimate in democratic clothing. Its origins were in Europe--well before San Francisco's Levi Strauss in the mid-1800s. Plus, jeans' history is detailed in tandem with American events: Teddy Roosevelt and John Wayne as proponents of Western culture; Rosie the Riveter, a symbol of female progress during world wars; Elvis and Brando, indicators of the glamorous rebel--all complete with photographs and interview snippets. Fascinating facts abound: $14 billion sold in 2004 in the U.S. alone and a suburban Illinois store with 14,000 pairs. Yet the bottom-line question, as always, remains: Do they flatten your butt? Barbara Jacobs
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Twitter: @sullivanjames

My books start with an idea -- a person, place or thing -- that reveals something about the bigger picture. I'm drawn to the unusual and the extraordinary, especially when they spring unexpectedly from the commonplace. I've lived in Queens and Brooklyn, New Orleans, Chicago, San Francisco and Boston. I'm a journalist (Boston Globe, RollingStone.com) and father of three boys. I'm also a baseball fanatic, music nerd, Chuck Taylors connoisseur and a dog lover.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth A. Root on November 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I was torn between a 4 and a 5 rating. What is good is great, but I think a few things should have been added.

I'd give it a couple of stars just for the loving detail of having printed it blue on white. It is a very interesting history. It is all the more informative because Sullivan gives alternate versions of various stories, instead of simply selecting the one he prefers. In addition, he mentions that he is slightly skeptical of some "official stories" without actually calling the source a liar. He has obviously spoken with or researched a large number of people involved in the industry. There is a lot of detail about various companies, although Levis gets the most space (as is appropriate.) Sullivan begins with forerunners of jeans, different fabrics, and traces the shift in usage from working people, to youthful rebellion to designer jeans.

There is one thing missing in this history, in my opinion, and I admit that this is a self-serving pet peeve. Having been born in 1953, I am tired of having the baby boomers all characterized the the oldest members of the set. The Baby Boom lasted until 1968 - some of the youngest "boomers" are the children of the oldest. I can just imagine what people younger than myself think. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, when I was wearing jeans, the sense of rebellion had pretty much died out. Oh, the rebellious still wore jeans, wearing jeans wasn't necessarily a sign of being rebellious. I'm sure there are exceptions, but the adults of most of my peers accepted jeans as the costume of the young without much protest, even though most of them didn't wear jeans themselves. That battle was fought and won by the slightly older. The issue was less blue jeans per se than the issue of formality in dress.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By M. Fitzgerald on September 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
James Sullivan covers the history of jeans from the creation of denim to the Levi's I'm wearing today. The book is well researched; full of great information and things I never knew about the jeans industry. It brought clarity to much of what went on in the late 70's and early 80's when designer jeans came about. A fun look at America's cultural history. Really a great read.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Leslie on September 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Being a 3rd generation garmento, I found this book very interesting. Denim has gone from being a blue-collar item

to having full-fledged fashion status and dominating the contemporary market. Sullivan's book chronicles this transition

in a smooth, intelligible way. This book explores American culture as much as it does denim.

And to the person who contested the Brigham Young quote, your comment was not exactly a "review",

which is what this section is designed for. Furthermore, I would be interested to know your basis in challenging

this quote as you offered no source for your statement.
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