Denim fabric is a constant staple of the wardrobe, worn by men and women of all ages, as the original jeans generation of the 1960s has refused to behave like their parents and continued to wear denim. Jeans and denim continuously move from fashion to commodity, back to fashion and back to commodity again. To some consumers and retailers, the jean is a basic, to others it is high fashion.
As far as just-style is concerned, the denim jean will continue to dominate the world’s casual clothing market indefinitely. There appears to be no indication that this badge of independence shows any sign of losing its appeal.
Some things might change but cotton prices, at least for the next three years, are not one of them.
Cotton prices will remain low. Consequently, prices of both denim and jeans will also continue to be competitive. By 2021 the average world retail jeans price will not rise to unaffordable levels.
The current huge political uncertainties in the Middle East and North Africa may well result in the locations of both jeans factories and denim mills changing. The countries most at risk are Tunisia, Egypt and Pakistan. The likely beneficiaries could be Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, parts of South America, and Bangladesh.
The rise of media opinion about issues such as fair trade, environmental concerns and corporate social responsibility. These issues might have an influence on prices, factory conditions, and attitudes to waste and excessive water usage.
The history of denim is very well documented. There have been many books. Some of these have been written by enthusiasts, some have been written by the jeans brands themselves as part of their marketing campaigns. But jeans, more than any other garment in the consumers’ wardrobe, say something about the wearer’s character.
Today brands fight to convince the young that denim is still cool, even though their parents and their grandparents are wearing it, the marketing approach has transmogrified into offering whatever the wearer wants. Sociologically there are many explanations of what the wearer wants,the most commonly expressed reasons are:
- I wear jeans because they work. They are easy, and all purpose, so I do not have to think
- when I am dressing in the morning. This is the functionality statement.
- I wear jeans because they have history. They express an attitude. This is the authenticity statement.
- I wear jeans because I believe in the brand. This is the loyalty or badge statement.
- I wear jeans because they remain cool. This is the fashion statement.
- I wear jeans because people I want to be like wear jeans. This is the celebrity statement.
Jeans started out as work clothing. Whether the denim fabric is a corruption of Serge de Nimes, or the jeans garment a reference to sailors from Genoa, it has been argued over endlessly by social historians. However, their development as work clothing was an American phenomenon driven after the end of the civil war by the United States migration westwards, and the needs of farmers, cowboys, factory workers and miners for a tough cheap work trouser, that was easy to wash.
As a fashion statement, we must look to the period after the Second World War, and to the importance of film, and the growth of a youth culture. In the fifties, films like Rebel without a Cause, starring James Dean, allowed the jeans garment to begin its move into youth fashion. The breakdown of traditional codes of dress at that time, particularly in universities and later in schools, lead to the rise of a jeans culture. Blazers, jackets, ties and tweed trousers began to be displaced by leather.
The longest running fad, or the strongest trend in history?
As far as just-style is concerned, the denim jean will continue to dominate the world casual clothing market indefinitely. There appears to be no indication that this badge of independence shows any sign of losing its appeal. Within the last month, both the UK trade magazine Drapers Record and the world trend forecasting company WGSN have both run reports on the continuing fascination with denim.
Although the young remain the strongest consumer group for the purchase of denim jeans, the way brands and own label retailers connect with them is a serious current issue. Young adults are frequently dubbed “millennials” by social arbiters. A millennial is defined as an age range between:
- a person who was 20 in 2000, born in 1980 and 35 now;
- a person who is 20 now, born in 1995.
Sometimes referred as Generation Y, and occasionally as the rent generation; people who cannot afford the inflated buying prices of homes, especially in the US, UK and Western Europe.
The issue is how to reach millennials, and how millennials connect with the jeans market. The problem is that they appear to be behaving differently from previous generations, who were enticed by traditional jeans advertising which promised the wearer that they would be hip, cool and sexy.
Millennials expect things to be very fast. Anything slow will turn them off quickly. They multitask and they are very visual. If you cannot sell on the web in less than six clicks, the prospective customer will just give up and go away. Consumers will have to reinvent their marketing to this niche market.