Saying “blue jeans” sounds almost redundant: most jeans are blue, after all! It is very difficult to find jeans in any other color, to the point there was a 2008 trend that was extremely popular due to how original it was: colored jeans. But blue is definitely not the most versatile color: black, white, browns… are all considered “neutral”, easy to wear colors, but blue is considered a hard to combine shade!
So, how come the most popular color for jeans is blue, then? What happened in the fashion industry that made them all collectively decide that blue was the go-to color shade for jeans? Why blue is the most common color for Denim?
To answer this question, we need to go back to the days where jean fabric was first invented. Actually, it is not that far ago: it happened during the colonization and settlement of pilgrims in the United States. Laborers and farmhands were already using a very sturdy fabric made from cotton in a style called “duck pants”. This duck pants were made to be as sturdy as possible due to the hard work they were doing, and the rough and tumble their clothes would have to deal with.
However, during the gold rush era, even duck pants were not sturdy enough: if miners wanted to keep their pants for longer, they needed something even sturdier. That’s when Levi Strauss invented the jeans as we know them: sturdy jeans with rivets and a little pocket for your pocket watch.
So, why blue dye?
Blue was the chosen color for jeans because of the chemical properties of blue dye. Most dyes will permeate the fabric when in hot temperatures, making the color stick; but blue dye works in the opposite way! It sticks only to the outside of the threads, without permeating the fabric at all.
When this type of dye gets washed, it loses colors and threads: the more denim was washed, the softer it would get. When washed enough, a lot of the color would go away and the fabric would get softer, achieving that “distressed”, worn look that we love so much in our jeans.
When laborers heard that there was a fabric that was sturdy enough to deal with hard work, but that would get softer with washes without becoming frailer they started to prefer jeans over duck pants, and that is how they became a staple of not only American, but also international fashion!