The Reign Or The Ruin Of The Blue Jeans?

What are blue jeans doing in the old royal courts of Europe…? Glad you asked!

Films like Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and the countless tales of the elegant-speaking Elizabethan and Victorian eras are attended today by droves of blue-jeaned popcorn-munchers who couldn’t tell you the difference between a split infinitive and a banana split. What’s more they don’t care. You see, for most of them (us?) watching the sophisticated form and formality on the screen is like visiting an art museum. Nice to look at; but not to look like!

Still, there once was form and formality in America too. Dad always dressed in three-piece suits; gave his seat to a lady; and in age of properly starched white shirts, his idea of casual was the white shirt without a tie. But then not so much after the 1960s. In that raucous re-energizing decade, America started to become something different. Youth challenged age. Change challenged continuity. The chant was: “You can’t trust anyone over 30.”

Nothing wrong with relaxing the rules. The question now 50 years later is, what are the rules? Are there any left?

The answer that roars back from today’s rock-concert, buddy-film, pot-smoking, motor-cycle legions echoes the 60’s: “If it feels right, how can it be wrong?” A taunt few today are willing to question, lest they be dismissed as silly anachronisms.

Speaking as an anachronism, I can accept being dismissed. What I wonder, though, is why casual grungy America remains so fascinated with Elizabethan/ Victorian form and formality? Why every eloquent Brit or Aussie speaking at an award ceremony makes us sit up and take notice? When you look back in time you can’t help noticing how those sterner & staider worlds, even with all their faults, helped make possible our own remarkable world.

Could that mean….? Could their form and formality have been somehow superior to our casual and careless style? No, no, a silly thought…! But still…?

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  • I thought that Niall Ferguson had the answer for the first part of the question, although he attributed jeans to cowboys, when the real explanation was San Francisco gold miners.

    Now whether teens like Brits is probably about the same as why they like The Avengers. Probably the latter more.

  • In reply to jack:

    Well, like them or hate them, Niall is right. They ARE the international dress code. Naturally codes change over time, but I don't expect to be around for the next big one....

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