From the archive: Alexa Chung on her longtime quest for the perfect pair of jeans
Each chapter of my teenage years stands out in my memory for the style of jeans I wore. From 501s when I was 10 to bootcut hipsters when I was 13 – probably something to do with the Spice Girls, but also, almost certainly, a product of Easter I spent with my best friend and her family in Arizona , observing the style of “older girls” in shopping malls. I then graduated from the school of aged denim, not in a cool, grunge way, but in that weird, pre-aged way that happened back then – I still don’t know why.
The baggy, baggy skater jeans I wore in sixth grade were a particularly unfortunate phase, a failed attempt to get the attention of cute skater boys, who were themselves trying to look like the slew of misnamed nu-metal bands which had exploded. outside of America, like Korn or Linkin Park.
Bands like The Strokes, Kings of Leon and more recently The Horrors ushered in the new style of drop crotch jeans. They wear their denim tights, an ode to American musicians of yesteryear such as The Ramones or Patti Smith. But like their jeans-wearing ancestors, denim has always been inextricably linked to the world of rock ‘n’ roll. Ever since Elvis rolled up his swinging hips in a pair, or James Dean made a name for himself as the original rebel without a cause, he’s been associated with that “live fast, die young” mentality that continues to enthrall us. By the way, it wasn’t until I was wandering around London for modeling auditions that I came across the perfect pair of skinny jeans – Balenciaga, if you want to know.
Denim has become a symbol of youth, sex, rebellion and, above all, America. Buying our first pair of jeans is usually our first foray into American style. Denim is about Californian cowboys and skateboarders, hip East Coast rock stars and young Hollywood actors who simply refuse to wear shirts for photo shoots. James Dean wouldn’t have smoldered so well in chinos, and I doubt the Marlboro man would have looked as tough or rugged if he’d been wearing a suit. It was in denim that villainous Brooke Shields decided to advertise as an under-dressed, underage 15-year-old; apparently, nothing came between her and her Calvins. Denim has become synonymous with Americana. It can withstand any storm or change of season, even despite the fact that it can often look cheesy.