The History of Ripped Jeans

Unless you've been living under the rock you've noticed the wide prevalence of ripped jeans in fashion. But do you know how and when this trend started? We are here to give you some background information that will let you speak some truth the next time your uncle judges you for choosing to wear pants with cuts and tears.

So let's go back to the 1970's where the trend of distressed denim had found its way into the punk culture. Prior to this, ripped jeans were associated with the working class who couldn't afford to buy new jeans. In the 1970's the sex pistols had ingrained British Punk ideology to fight against status quo and conservative form of government. The early punk movement tore apart consumer goods as a symbol of revolt and expression of anger towards society. The denim then became one of the main targets for the politically fueled deconstruction. Especially with both men and women wearing torn jackets and jeans adorned with pins and slogans. 

Graffiti and 'Street Art', Blackfriars Rd, Manchester by Matt Harrop. This street art was revered by many in the Punk Rock era of the 1970s and 80s

During the same time in North America, the ripped jean started to become a fashion statement pioneered by cultural phenomenon such as Iggy Pop who claims to be one of the first to start this trend. In an interview with Vice, Iggy Pop said "[...] Then, as I began doing more gigs, these flimsy pants I wore would start to rip, and I left the rips in. I thought it looked right. It was the thing at the time for people like P.J. Proby or Jackie Wilson, or even James Brown, to leave loose basting instead of proper stitching in the crotch of the pants. Before the end of the show they'd rip onstage, and that was part of the gig. But I was the first one to just come out with the rips, as far as I know."

Although the ripped jeans were a subculture phenomenon, by the 90's the trend became very popular and were accepted by a wide variety of cultural influences from Kurt Cobain to Hip Hop, cementing its place as a mainstream fashion piece. With its wide acceptance, the ripped jeans' political past became muted as its appeal grew to more people.    

Today, it has been making a comeback with the resurgence of 90s grunge in fashion trends. While the ripped jeans no longer represent a strong political statement, it can be found in the wardrobes of many. People of varied tastes wear ripped jeans to express themselves in different ways, and at the end of the day, giving meaning to what you wear is important because it provides a means to symbolize your thoughts and opinions. So, leave a comment below and let us know why you wear your ripped pair of jeans.

Rohan Agarwal | 2018  


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  • I think the ripped jeans fashion is extremely stupid and I cannot understand it. Why does this look good? I read all the reasons it started and I find it the worst form of fashion I have ever seen in my 74 years on this earth. Please explain so I can understand. People you look ridiculous and NOT cute or fashionable!!! Help!!

  • Herd mentality. The torn jeans cost as much or more than a good pair of Wranglers, so phony trend followers can exhibit “the look” of poverty or working class hardship without experiencing the real thing. More posers, less sincerity.

    • Peter
  • In my opinion the designers of these ripped/destroyed jeans are making a political statement for equality. They want everyone to be equal and look the same and because a large majority of people are poor, they want everyone to look poor. By falling into this equality trap, you are only making them rich and richer. So much for equality. They make you poor and themselves rich by charging astronomical prices for these pieces of crap.

    • Not trend follower
  • I didn’t know that ribbed jeans is something which existed way back in the 90’s. I do think that it reflects a culture that shows an aggressive “ I don’t care for starched shirts and creased trousers”. The point here is will I be taken seriously if I wore ribbed jeans to a formal meeting…. but I realise that even though it looks randomly torn, it’s been very carefully designed to give a certain look n feel. I know coz I tried to cut up a pair of jeans at home which looked pretty sad.

    • Anonymous