1920s – The sanforization process of preshrinking fabrics was invented by Sanford Cluett. Prior to this advent, denim clothing was submerged in water to remove any and all shrinkage before wear. Lee was a pioneer in the use of the sanforization process.
1940s – As a byproduct of World War II, women enter the once male-dominated workforce. Women quickly adopt the traditional work wear uniforms of their male counterparts and for the first time women start to wear denim in a major way.
1950s – Jeans are perceived as the clothing choice of delinquents, youth involved in counterculture and anti-fashion. Hollywood takes notice of the increasing popularity of denim. Stars like Marlin Brando, Elvis Presley and James Dean solidify tough guy personas sporting jeans.
1960s – After WW2 American style clothing was becoming increasingly popular in Japan. To feed the demand, Maruo Clothing company would import used jeans and resize them for the Japanese market. It wasn’t until 1963 when the first jeans were made in Japan under the Canton name (currently Big John).
1970s / 1980s – Gave birth to the designer jeans. Labels like Jordache, Sasson and Calvin Klein produced some of the most memorable clothing adds in history emphasizing sex sells attitude. Most notably the Brooke Shields campaign for Calvin Klein.
1990s – Hip-hop in America was growing and played a huge influence on denim at the time. Jeans were worn baggy and loose. Labels Tommy Hilfiger and Polo Jeans grew to enormous highs as the hip-hop community embraced the brands.
2000s – Hollywood-inspired premium denim brands hit the scene. Brands like Seven and Citizens of Humanity gained not just for their fit, but also for the celebrities that wore them. The signature back pockets all of a sudden become Hollywood billboards.
2010s – The history of denim seems to have come around full circle as the popularity of raw denim has increased throughout the 2010s. Vintage style construction and reproduction fabrics have now become the luxury fabric of choice among denim connoisseurs.
Illustrations: Studio Happy Birthday for Highsnobiety.com