It’s no coincidence that denim and leather have become wardrobe staples.
Both have links to cowboys, punks and supermodels – the hard-working materials have grown together throughout history to become the signature uniform for a range of subcultures in each decade.
And the pairing continues to feature heavily in off-duty outfits to give off a cool, stylish aesthetic.
The simplest of looks? A pair of jeans and a leather jacket. But don’t be fooled into thinking the combination is a one look wonder. Broaden your sartorial horizons with a denim shirt tucked into leather trousers or a jean jacket over a leather dress to really show your style prowess.
There’s a reason these two hardworking fabrics have been at the forefront of fashion and it’s all thanks to their practical beginnings. Primitive man would use the hides of animals they hunted to protect them from the elements. Since then leather has been a vital and much-loved material throughout history.
Denim, while joining the fashion party a little later in time, has not wavered in the style stakes with jeans still best-sellers today. Its roots belong to American gold miners in the mid-1800s who needed clothes that were strong and tough.
Businessman Levi Strauss and tailor Jacob Davis came to the rescue and the duo patented denim bottoms with reinforced rivets at the places they would often tear, like the corners of pockets and the base of the button fly.
From these humble beginnings jeans as we know them were born – and Levi’s are still the most iconic of them all.
The classic leather and denim duo hit the mainstream in the 1950s as Hollywood movie stars like Marlon Brando and James Dean sported their biker jackets with cuffed denim bottoms.
The poster boys for rebellion sparked thousands of copycats who wanted to team their denim with leather.
And this certainly wasn’t a phase. In part thanks to the prolonged lifespan of the materials, the simple fifties look hasn’t shown signs of going anywhere.
Adopted by various countercultures over the years, while the shapes might have been modified, the backbone of the look remains just as popular now.
There have been big steps forward to make the manufacturing processes even more eco-friendly.
We’re sure you’re aware of the sustainable aspects of real leather as a by-product of the meat industry and its natural tanning processes; despite being a natural, sustainable product, denim has been on the receiving end of fashion industry naysayers for decades.
Denim is hugely popular and made from cotton and indigo dyes. Cotton has been an incredibly important cash crop in Africa, India and Latin America. A legacy of unsustainable small farmer production practices led to criticism of water use in cotton production and unsustainable chemical use in, lionizing synthetics and the acceleration of fast fashion. Even today, some advocates, like Fashion Revolution, pitch that it takes up to 9500 litres of water to make just one pair of jeans, the implication we should wear polyester.
We applaud sustainable production practices and the responsible use of chemicals so that we leave a legacy of a better environment to our children. Fortunately, some brands are making important moves in reviewing these processes. Labels are supporting sustainably produced cotton and planet-friendly manufacturing.
While celebrating natural apparel, look out for these sustainable elements and choose real leather for a more beautiful, long-lasting and earth-friendly outfit.
And remember that, like a fine wine, both denim and leather look better with age so keep them in your wardrobe or re-sell to avoid them ending up in landfill.
Take a look at these outfit ideas that you’re guaranteed to hold onto for a long time to come.
Womenswear Outfit 1
Shirt, H&M Dress, Muubaa Necklace, Mango Boots, Arket
Womenswear Outfit 2
& Other Stories T-Shirt, Ganni Trousers, Cos Russel & Bromley
Jacket, ASKET T-shirt, Uniqlo Jeans, Levi’s Boots, Doc Martens
By Joely Chilcott