Culture Clash..OrSlow, Japanese Denim and 1960'S America

Culture Clash..OrSlow, Japanese Denim and 1960'S America

America and Japan both used denim as a tool to challenge traditional ideologies of what it meant to be a part of society. Japanese denim and denim's role in the 1960's Civil Rights Movement highlight how this versatile fabric can transcend its origins and become a powerful cultural symbol. Both instances demonstrate how denim, a humble workwear fabric, was transformed into something greater. In the U.S., civil rights activists redefined denim from a symbol of servitude to one of strength and resistance. In Japan, artisans elevated denim from everyday workwear to a luxury item through meticulous craftsmanship.

Japanese Denim

Japanese denim holds a special place in the hearts of denim enthusiasts worldwide, often heralded as the pinnacle of quality and craftsmanship. Japanese denim is renowned for its meticulous craftsmanship and the use of traditional techniques. Two defining characteristics set it apart: the selvedge edge and the indigo dyeing process. Selvedge denim refers to the natural end of the fabric roll that prevents unravelling. This type of denim is woven on old shuttle looms, producing a tighter, denser weave with unique imperfections and a signature edge, often marked with a coloured stripe. The indigo dyeing process is equally significant. Unlike mass-produced denim, which often uses synthetic dyes, Japanese denim traditionally employs natural indigo dye. The result is a pair of jeans that ages beautifully, developing a unique patina and character over time.
One brand that epitomises the excellence of Japanese denim is OrSlow. Founded in 2005 by Ichoro Nakatsu, OrSlow is the culmination of Nakatsu’s lifelong passion for vintage clothing. Nakatsu has been an avid collector of American denim, military, outdoors and workwear garments. Nakatsu set out to create garments that honoured the craftsmanship of the past while offering contemporary style and durability. Each OrSlow piece is crafted in Japan using specialist machinery and exceptional high-quality local materials. The result is jeans that are not just garments but works of art, appreciated by denim aficionados around the world.

The Denim Rebellion

Denim was introduced in the 1940’S & 50’s to Japan, during and after World War 2 America and Japan collided in both combat and cultural curiosity. One of the newest forms of cultural influence was cinema. The 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause, can be credited for introducing the stylist grandeur of denim. Rebellion is an important theme in this era of fashion especially in the 50’s 60’s. The Taiyozoku were a Japanese subculture inspired by the American rockers who fully embraced this rebellious attitude. America and Japan both spent this era challenging traditional ideologies of what it meant to be a part of society.
In the United States denim became a powerful symbol in the Civil Rights movement. Denim, deeply woven into the fabric of American culture, symbolizes the pioneering spirit and working-class ethos. However, the history of blue jeans isn't just about Americana stereotypes; it's also intertwined with the Civil Rights Movement and the fight for equality in the United States. While figures like Elvis Presley and James Dean popularized denim among the youth, it was the civil rights activists who cemented its place in everyday wardrobes. These activists, often seen in newspapers and on television, wore denim as they fought for equality and justice. During the 1960s, denim symbolized the struggles and resilience of the black community.
As with many symbols of rebellion, denim was eventually co-opted by the mainstream. Styles that originated with civil rights activists were repackaged and sold as new fashion trends. It's crucial to remember the role that black tenant farmers, civil rights activists, and sharecroppers played in making denim what it is today. Denim is more than just a fashion statement; it's a symbol of resilience, solidarity, and the ongoing struggle for justice.
Jeans are more than just clothing—they are a piece of history, a work of art, and a testament to the enduring appeal of denim.