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Fall into denim jackets

Posted on September 2, 2000

WHAT: Denim jacket.

WHY: It’s a great equalizer. An affordable accessory that puts us lowly mortals at level with the likes of Madonna and Cher. This year, the denim jacket has outperformed the pashmina shawl as the trendiest cover-up.

HOW: Denim jackets can be worn in different styles for different occasions — from casual to, yes, ultra-formal.

A hip-length jacket makes cool outerwear for informal occasions. But shorten it to bust-length, trim it with some embroidery or glass beads, and it transforms into chic wear. It’s come a long way since only cowgirls got the blues.

THE JACKET RACKET: The classic denim jacket — as available in Lee and Levi stores — is 100 per cent cotton. It has two front flap pockets, two slash pockets and a seamless back. It has brass buttons (generally with the manufacturer’s logo), and is stitched with double threads, usually of a contrasting colour.

A good jacket has an adjustable waistband with space for two buttons.

There are denim jackets that aren’t made of 100 per cent cotton. Hemp jackets, for example, are a combination of denim and hemp. Its makers say hemp helps keep perspiration and moisture away, so you feel warmer in winter and cooler in summer.

THE PRICE OF FASHION: Denim jackets cost $40 upwards.

DENIM DEN’ AND NOW: Denim is more than just a fabric. It has been a symbol of everything from art and antiques to labour, rebellion and war.

It’s found in museums and antique stores, worn by labourers and American cowboys. It gained popularity during the Depression and World War II, notably among female factory-workers.

The popular theory on the origin of the word is that it’s an English corruption of the French “serge de Nimes,” a serge fabric from the town of Nimes in France. However, there’s an argument over whether it’s a fabric imported from France or an English fabric bearing the same name.

In the 1980s, hard rock, punk rock and rap ensured that acid-wash wasn’t the final word in the finishing process. Shredded denim and jeans ripped at the knee were a craze as symbolized by Guns ‘n’ Roses lead singer Axl Rose.

In the early ’90s, in keeping with the grunge look, jackets and jeans had to look pre-owned. The denim finish was called destroyed wash, worn, broken-in and vintage.

TRENDS 2000: Thanks to Calvin Klein, dirty denim — a symbol of honest labour — is the latest jeanswear trend, both for jackets and pants. Fabric is blasted and stained dust-brown in places that get the most wear, like knees and hips.

Liz Claiborne’s Stretch Denim Jacket is either rinsed for the darker shade of blue, sand-blasted for the lighter tint or “enzyme-washed” for softness.

The Coated Denim Jacket by Kenneth Cole has a chunky front zipper and denim elbow patches added to the classic jacket.

Jackets that sport air-brushed scenes of wildlife — tigers, eagles or wolves — are popular, as are motorcycle jackets, made of leather, but designed to look like denim.

The ethnic look is also very in, with jackets boasting embroidery work. Or trimmed with a bit of lace.

And come fall, we’ll see some of them trimmed with fur, too.

Copyright © 2000, The Toronto Star. All rights reserved.