Lifestyle

New Documentary Recounts History Of Blue Jeans, At Any Moment Worn By Half Of The World’s Population

Premiering tomorrow night at 9 p.m. ET on PBS’ American Experience, “Riveted: The History of Jeans,” tells the fascinating and surprising story of the iconic American garment, at any given moment worn by half the people on the planet. 

The story of jeans usually begins with Levi Strauss, a Bavarian immigrant looking to make his fortune selling garments to the 49ers during the California Gold Rush. But what is not widely known about their history is:

*The expertise of enslaved West African people in the American South in the growing, processing and dyeing of indigo used in “slave cloth,” denim’s predecessor

*American women of a certain age vacationing and wearing jeans at working dude ranches in the 1930’s, moving them off the pages of the Sears catalogue and onto the pages of Vogue

*Jeans manufacturers forming the Denim Council, which launched a multi-media assault to convince the public that jeans, which became the unofficial uniform of teen rebellion in the 1950’s, would not corrupt their children

*Denim-clad Black college students traveling South to organize protests in the 1960’s, transforming the garment into a potent symbol of solidarity with the Southern Black working class 

“Jeans are the perfect, quintessentially American item through which to examine the complex story of America,” says the film’s executive producer, Cameo George. “They reflect their times and provide a unique and unexpected starting point for discussions of race, gender, class and culture. And they’re also one of the few things we all agree on—we all love our jeans.”

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