Saturday, April 30, 2011

Maybe our most lasting influence...

Centuries from now what marks will America have left on the globe? One of the more surprising suggestions is pants.  More specifically, jeans.
But why of all things denim - blue jeans? Denim is clearly a global presence, it not only exists in every country in the world, but in many of these it has become the single most common form of everyday attire. In preparing this paper we counted the proportion of persons wearing denim blue jeans out of the first hundred to pass by, on random streets in sites ranging from Istanbul, London, Rio, Manila, Seoul and San Francisco. This ranged from 34% to 68%. This suggests that soon, at any given moment, more than half the world will be wearing this single textile. Although there are many other global forms ranging from foods such as Coca-Cola, through to car brands, we will argue that denim is special, being as much a refusal, as an acceptance, of capitalist pressures such as fashion. Also, a major part of the explanation of its growth is that it connects intimacy and personalisation to ubiquity in a manner that is perhaps unique, even within the genre of clothing....The ubiquity of blue denim as a global clothing is precisely such a blindingly obvious presence in the world. No-one today is going to be surprised by the fact shamans or hunters wear blue jeans. Anthropologists have bored themselves silly with such anecdotes for the last thirty years. Furthermore, denim seems to rule not just in breadth but in depth. In heartlands such as the United States the average American woman owns 8.3 pairs of jeans (Cotton Incorporated, 2005) and over half of adults in the UK ‘usually’ wearing jeans (Mintel, 2005). So this paper will not waste time demonstrating the ubiquity of denim. These figures are all that we need to make clear our starting point. [More very serious talk about jeans]
The US has spun off many global norms without planning or thinking. This one and the outlook suggested in the article certainly bodes well for cotton farmers.

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