Bolden your blues this summer with these four American denim designers
If anything embodies not only the American look but also the American dream, it’s denim. From its days as a cheap necessity in the Great Depression to now, when it comes as investment pieces with name tags like Prada and Louis Vuitton, it’s a classic success story. In the spirit of July’s celebration of American pride, here are four brands built upon the little fabric that could.
When 7 For All Mankind denim first hit the racks in 2000, it was an instant success. The California brand’s rectangle tag sewn on back pockets was nothing if not the green light to the millennium’s rise of designer denim. Known for being thick with a slight stretch, low-rise, and with a contrasting side-seam, 7 jeans have that great attribute of being able to be dressed up or dressed down at will. In the brand’s first New York outlet opened in SoHo in 2008, white shelves and dark wood display overalls and jumpers, short shorts and jackets, boyfriend jeans and skinnies with rhinestone-encrusted back pockets. There’s also menswear, kidswear, and a full line of casual wear that has nothing to do with denim at all, except for the fact that it pairs fantastically with it. (West Broadway nr. Broome St.)
Blue jeans wouldn’t be as ubiquitous as they are if it weren’t for the genius of Calvin Klein. The Bronx-born designer gave jeans a sexy new image beginning in the mid-70s with new flattering styles, emblazoning back pockets with his name as a status-symbol of sorts, and later, those racy Kate Moss campaigns that completely shook up the advertising industry too. Coming in bootlegs, flares, straight-legs, and skinnies, CKs still exude that Americana image they first became famous for—nothing too fancy, washed but not distressed, well-fitted, and in all shades of blue (though nothing says summer like that light, sky hue woven with flecks of white). His multi-story, glass-filled Manhattan flagship houses his full range of products from underwear to runway collections, but the jeans section is still the most popular. (Madison Ave. at 60th St.)
Given that its launch was in San Francisco in 1969—the heart and heyday of all things denim—The Gap is undeniably one of America’s most famous, far-reaching denim brands. With an all-encompassing (and aptly named) 1969 line, there’s no shortage of options at the Gap, and all at affordable prices. There are dark, tailored washes that can pair with a blouse and blazer for the office; there are cheeky hip-huggers waiting for a pair of stilettos and some nightlife. For men, there are heavy dark washes and shorts just the right length; elastic-wasted and flared for kids. And there are also colors galore, everything from bright whites to pastels and bold primaries. The Gap’s Herald Square outpost is perhaps its most comprehensive New York store, but white walls, wooden furniture, and groovy Motown music are staples in all locaitons, for vibes as American as the clothing. (34th St. at Broadway)
Of-the-moment jean brands come and go, but if one will assuredly always be there, it’s Levi’s. Dating back to 1853 when Bavarian immigrant Levi Strauss opened a dry goods store in San Francisco, the brand has been the cult-favorite of just about every breed of subculture, from hippies to punk rockers to summer camp preppies. Why? Because their blue pants have a magical way of improving lower-halves of every shape and size. Although Levi’s are found in most department stores, the brand’s Broadway flagship is the place to go for any denim want and need, though its endless options can feel overwhelming. If that’s the case, look to the brand’s capsule collections: Made and Crafted for premium denim, Vintage Clothing for archival-based styles, and Commuter designed for bicyclers and anyone on-the-go. (Broadway nr. 44th St.)