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.)
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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
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