What is distressed denim exactly, and how did it end up on every rack from luxury designers to discount mass market retailers?
Many people use distressed denim as a term to describe jeans with rips and tears. And while this may be an unofficial and contemporary definition of the phrase, it’s not entirely correct. The “distressed” in distressed denim actually refers to the treatment process used to make the denim look faded or wrinkled. The original intent of this denim was to make it look worn without the literal years of wear and tear. But this was to be done without actually tearing the fabric.
The influence of distressed denim in mainstream fashion can be seen throughout several decades. The denim was originally a product of punk subculture in the 70s. Then the jean style made its way through the grunge and hip hop counterculture movements before making its way to the masses.
Male style icons like Johnny Depp and Bruce Springsteen have sported denim of the naturally distressed sort for years. In 2001, Junya Watanabe dedicated an entire runway show to the recreation of denim. Diesel introduced popular, high ticket pairs of distressed denim in 2008. Now, whether you shop at H&M or Alexander Wang, there are distressed denim offerings on both ends of the spectrum.
Opinions vary on the style. Some feel it’s a unique and stylish way to showcase their fashion perspective. Others feel it’s a backwards evolution of dress and design. However you feel, one thing is clear about distressed denim. It’s more than a phase; it’s an institution.