What was trashy 100 years ago, but classy now?
When my great-grandparents were growing up, jeans were only worn by poor people and labourers. It was cheap and highly valued as work wear because of its durability. The term “jeans” has been in use since the early 1600s, where it was used as a catch-all term to describe the “rough clothing worn by working men”.
The average farmer or labourer would thus wear something like this.
People from the middle class and upper echelons of society would never be caught wearing jeans. They wore suits often made of materials such as linens. Your average middle class man would look something like this.
So when did jeans become trendy?
Well according to one website, it was a group of factors.
1. The expiration of a patent held by Levi’s in 1908 led to an influx of imitation jeans flooding the market.
2. The romanticization of the “cowboy lifestyle” made jeans popular.
3. A third thing that helped denim jeans become popular, particularly overseas, was their popularity with servicemen in the 1940s and 1950s, who often liked to wear them when they were off duty.
4. And finally, the fourth thing that made jeans popular with the younger generation was the release of films like Rebel Without a Cause and The Wild One, in which the protagonists wore jeans as a way of rebelling against societal expectations. In the 1980s, interest in jeans went nuclear with the release of a series of sexually charged, strong armed ads.
Or rather, lack of leisure.
Leisure in the past was, in a way, a symbol of status. Only the well-to-do could afford to loiter about, and not be busy all the time.
But now, being busy is what’s classy.
From an online story on Why you feel busy all the time (when you’re actually not):
Historically, the ultimate symbol of wealth, achievement and social superiority was the freedom not to work: the true badge of honour … was leisure. Now, it’s busyness that has become the indicator of high status. “The best-off in our society are often very busy, and have to be,” says Gershuny. “You ask me, am I busy, and I tell you: ‘Yes, of course I’m busy – because I’m an important person!’”
Being busy is cool. A busier person is assumed to be more important.
In one study on why busyness is considered impressive published in Harvard Business Review, the authors deduce the change in perception to be due to changes in economy.
So, ya even though we complain about it most of the time, being busy has become classy.