The First Jeans

We had to fight for our first pair of blue jeans. In the opinion of many 1960’s mothers, including mine, they were still “dungarees” and not appropriate attire for young ladies.

They were meant for farmers, cowboys, factory workers, men.

So I saved my babysitting money, and bought my first pair of Levi’s at an Army Navy Store. One problem… they were far too blue.

I remember taking them out to the back alley behind our house, and asking my younger siblings to run over them with their bicycles to distress the denim. There was no way to explain this to my parents.

It worked. It helped achieve the more worn “hippie look” that was becoming popular .

School dress codes did not permit jeans, or even pants, for female students at the time. It was truly a different era.

But beyond high school, my jeans got a proper workout. Along with T shirts, they became affordable, fashionable, practical, and pretty much everyday wear on the college campus.

Bell bottoms, straight leg, boot cut, designer jeans were all on the way. Brooke Shields was waiting in the wings with her Calvin Klein’s.

For me, that first pair from the Army Navy Store will always be the most special.


Levi Strauss and Co. just released info on what they believe are the oldest women’s jeans in existence. Dated to the 1930’s, they were developed at a local level, long before they became a necessity for the factory-working women of the WWII era.

They call them “Viola” after the owner.


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72 Responses to The First Jeans

  1. dweezer19 says:

    Jeans for girls were rging by the time I reached Jr High but I got my Mom’s ‘affordable’ dept store versions until 9th grade when I got a weekend inventory job which paid enough for me to get my first pair of desirable jeans-flare legged BB’s! Oh yeah. My most memorable jeans purchase to this day. Thanks for the memories.

    • I liked when the BB’s got a bit smaller…it looked like I could drown in the first ones ! Glad you enjoyed, thanks for sharing your memories.

      • dweezer19 says:

        Sounds like you’re talking JNCO jeans! You house small families in those. One of my sosn loved those things. At least I flet. Got my 50 bucks worth of jeans for them! Lol

  2. Bernadette says:

    Oh I remember that old dress code well. Whenever I appeared in jeans my neighbor would ask if I was going to work in the garden😏

    • Ha ha…no doubt, they were confused by our interest, B. And that dress code…skirts, cardigans, dresses, and the hemline better not be too short, or we were sent home. A different world.

  3. I lived in jeans, Van. And they were all made for men at the time. To get the blue out, we use to lay them in the stream for a few days, weighted down with rocks. Ha ha. Now, you can even buy them with rips and holes! Who would have thought?

  4. Sue Vincent says:

    Bleach… skillfully and unevenly applied… sitting in a bathtub of cold water to shrink the things… buying them four inches too big on the waist to accomodate hips then sewing darts in for the waist… Until finally they started selling female-shaped jeans. Then it was lying on the floor to get them to fasten….. πŸ˜€

  5. Erika Kind says:

    Impossible to imagine the world without jeans, right? It was a revolution!

  6. This was so funny! The bicycle part was hilarious and I could just see it in my mind! Isn’t it hard to imagine not having jeans around?

  7. C.E.Robinson says:

    What a great memory, Van. Had jeans coveralls as a kid, then in 5th grade my first pair of Levi jeans. Remember how stiff they were, and how they chaffed inner thighs. Yikes! Christine

  8. My mom was from the non denim wearing era, the tail end of it. She had a difficult time, I think, adjusting to us wearing jeans. But they are my go to for EVERYTHING comfortable. πŸ˜‰

  9. joey says:

    Viola is awesome. Remind me of 90’s jeans that seemed to find my waist and fit my curves — look at the cinch in the back.
    On behalf of women born after you, thank you for your bold efforts toward trousers of all kinds πŸ™‚

    PS: I find this post intriguing, as a book I read (finished) earlier today takes place in the 50’s and the protagonist was shamed for dressing in trousers on many separate occasions.

    • That cinch had a function…pre-belt days, who knew ? It was interesting to me that this pair shown was made cheaply, lesser buttons, fabric patch instead of the signature leather. It was as if they were sure that the trend for women would not succeed. They were so wrong. And those 50’s women shamed by pants…I blame it on Lucy & Ethel, Ozzie’s Harriet, soap operas, etc. Thanks, Joey.

  10. NJ says:

    It’s interesting to hear this πŸ˜‰ in today’s time πŸ™‚ when we completely live in and out in jeans πŸ˜€ I remember my mom too telling me this πŸ™‚ I wish you could have posted a picture of yours in that first jeans πŸ™‚

  11. I share your jeans history, Van. I recall that there were not nearly as many brands on the market – the fashionable fell into one of two camps – Lee’s or Levis. I wanted to be a Levis girl, but the Lee’s fit better. I paid a small fortune for those jeans – a whopping $20.00.

  12. I can’t imagine not having jeans. I wear them all the time. It’s so interesting how our perspectives regarding clothing has changed over time. At least we don’t have to wear corsets anymore!

  13. George says:

    Hard to believe there was a time when jeans were not the fashionable look. Young people would be shocked.

  14. Oh, that Army Navy store…what a memory

  15. Nurse Kelly says:

    Fun to reminisce about jeans like this! I started with dark wash Levi’s too, and progressed to several different brands and styles over the years. I have a few pairs that are distressed, one pair that is damaged, but none that are destroyed! Talk about strange fashion trends! Hope all is well, wishing you a great holiday weekend. xo

  16. As a boy I wore jeans all the time but ‘fashion jeans’ were new. My first pair of ‘hippie jeans’ were hip-huggers with huge bell bottoms that dragged the ground. I loved them!

  17. Why am I not surprised you wanted the jeans that were for the boys? Love how you had them run over. I am small and have trouble finding that fit. I’d rather do three days’ worth of dishes than go shopping.

    • Yep…not a fan of that shopping either, D., but maybe for reasons other than the fit. Growing up, there was little $ for wardrobe, so…hand-me-downs, discount shopping, sewing my own. The luxury of the mall was foreign to me/my family. The strangeness stuck.

  18. dgkaye says:

    Oh ya, the good old days! I used to love the superwide leg Wranglers because I was a chubby teen. πŸ™‚ x

  19. Jeans are practically what I live in. As a kid the more ragged your jeans were the more “in” you were. LOL I remember, Van. LOL

  20. So you are the reason people buy torn, ripped jeans “new” in stores. I knew it. πŸ˜’πŸ˜€

  21. I remember my very first pair of jeans too, they were not as posh as those LOL.. Sending Love and wishing you well Van.. Hope you are no where near the Hurricane storm coming .. LOVE and Blessings .. Sue xxx

    • Thanks, Sue, we are in Pennsylvania, will not be affected with much more than clouds. Thinking of all those who will, it’s been quite a storm season, and not over yet.

      • Good to know you will be safe.. I have a few blogging friends who have had to pack up and move already.. And like you, I think these storms we have seen nothing yet. But my prayers and thoughts are with those caught in its path and the one to follow.. So sad for all the Islands who have lost everything..
        Take care.. and enjoy your weekend.. xx

  22. A good soak in the bath with a little bleach did it for me but my absolute favourites were dungarees. 🌼🌼🌼

  23. My mother hated them with a vengeance and even when we were in our 60s and would be taking her out… even just for a drive she would turn her very carefully aimed disapproving look at you and them.. and begin to mutter. I put my first pair when I got married and had no hips… I wore boys at first.. It was a revelation going to live in Houston in 1985… jeans for days… hugs xx

  24. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Monday 11th September 2017 – Patrick Dykie, Terri Webster Schrandt, Van by the River, Annette Rochelle Aben, Robbie Cheadle and Traci Kenworth | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  25. Jeans have always been the clothing item of choice during my lifetime. It is really amazing how long the jeans fashion has lasted. A tribute to a great piece of clothing.

  26. I guess I was a dressy kid — I caught the denim wave quite late. I purchased my own very first pair for a college stagecraft class where we were required to log hours in the scene shop. It would be another full year before I considered buying myself a pair that wasn’t meant for messy chores.

    Even then, I favored the dressier dark wash jeans – nuthin’ distressed about my clothing! lol I was more a Pucci print mini-dress and fabric bells girl anyway – tho’ I did have a couple of pairs of denim BBs eventually, even one in a lighter wash. πŸ™‚

    But now I generally grab black leggings – much preferred to my many pairs of fashion jeans — varied colors now (even a couple of animal prints), some quite a bit more than a few years old, but none distressed (at least not on purpose). Fun article.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

    • I’ve taken to those leggings and skirts, but only in the winter months. Even in the “shaggy 70’s”, we had some fancy dressing folks. I remember one dorm friend who came looking for jeans to borrow when she was going caving. She had nothing to wear to get messy…the rest of us did. Thanks, M.

      • LOL – except for my stagecraft jeans, I would have been in the same boat with your dorm friend.

        When it gets really cold I “double-bag” and put sheepskin liners in my boots- rarely wear skirts anymore. Not so dressy anymore – especially since moving out of NYC.

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