What’s more American than blue jeans? Just about everyone in the country owns a pair, from cowboys to punks to preps, and it’s been that way for some time. This simple wardrobe staple has been at the forefront of American history. Jeans made their debut around the Gold Rush as men scurried to “go West” in the promise of fortune and opportunity. Hippies wore jeans to Woodstock. If blue jeans were around in 1776, the Founding Fathers and their wives would have probably worn them too.
Blue jeans are so popular because they are comfortable and versatile (and Americans love comfortable). They capture the American desire for self-expression and come broken in with a freewheeling sense of rebellion. They’re durable enough for a hard day’s work but also relaxed. They can be dressed up or dressed down, and they can be altered with different dyes or rips or patches or graffiti or even ironing for a tidy effect.
So, how do blue jeans carry over into our interiors? While you may not have denim upholstery or drapes in your home, the blue jean spirit is present in many classically all-American design elements. I’m sharing the “blue jeans of design” to show how your favorite pair of denim can inspire your space.
A Brief History of Blue Jeans
Before exploring how this essential wardrobe item informs your interior-design choices, let’s dive into some blue jeans history. I’m writing this piece in 2023 as blue jeans celebrate their 150th birthday. Their creator was none other than Levi Strauss, arguably the most iconic name in denim. Strauss teamed up with tailor Jacob Davis to create the first pair of riveted jeans in 1873 to supply miners and gold panners with a garment that could withstand working conditions. From then on, jeans cemented their relationship with the American West and would forever be tied to the Gold Rush, cowboys, and Southwestern style.
The Levi jeans patent expired in 1890, opening the door for more brands to create their own variation of the look. Denim popularity continued to grow through the decades, moving from a workwear item to a cool fashion statement. By the 1950s and 60s, jeans became the quintessential American wardrobe staple. Gap would open in 1969, revolutionizing how people shopped for jeans. Now, you could find your perfect size and fit even quicker and easier. There was no stopping the denim takeover.
Today, putting on your favorite pair of jeans is second nature. We wear them to work (no matter our profession), hangouts with friends, date nights, and pretty much anywhere that doesn’t have a dress code barring them, but those are few and far between. You can’t get much more American than blue jeans.
Blue Jeans and Interior Design
On my cross-country road trip to discover all-American interior design styles, I realized that our attitudes and preferences toward our wardrobes bleed over into our interiors. For example, the laid-back beachy attire of Californians can be found in the slouchy linen couches of the California Casual style.
Jeans are the one wardrobe item that all 50 states have in their closets, so it only makes sense that their influence is felt in our interior choices. We collectively want comfort and aren’t afraid to break the rules once in a while to start a new trend. Jeans capture that.
Design Elements Just as Comfortable as Your Favorite Pair of Jeans
These design elements are like your favorite pair of jeans: They’re easy to maintain, go with everything, and only look better with age.
Stylish But Neutral Color Palettes
Jeans go with everything, so it only makes sense that we start with neutral color palettes. However, don’t feel like you’re limited to stark white. Take inspiration from your rich shades of denim that perfectly pair with all of your tops. Richer colors like plaster, terracotta, earthy brown, and charcoal all act as neutrals but with a moodier feel.
Brown Leather Sofas
Brown leather sofas and your jeans have a lot in common. They’re comfortable, easy to clean, and go with everything. Like denim, leather develops a beautiful patina through the years and will only continue to look better with age. I love working with brown in interiors because it grounds the space just like a pair of jeans grounds an outfit.
“Dressy Casual” Decor Mixes
Jeans can be dressed up with a blazer or dressed down with an old concert tee. If you’re like me, you love opening an invitation to find that the event has a “dressy casual” dress code. It’s a relief to have that excuse to wear jeans. Interiors can be dressed up and down like an outfit by mixing high and low decor elements for a “dressy casual” look.
Marble countertops are durable and last a lifetime. However, they also form a patina with age, leaving a slight discoloration where you spill red wine or grooves where you chop veggies. The patina adds beauty, just like the rips in your jeans add a little character and style.
Curbside antiques are my version of thrifted jeans. I love shopping at garage sales and antique markets to find that one-of-a-kind piece. Like solid wood antiques, jeans last a lifetime. Buying either secondhand affords you a unique story and the opportunity to give them a new life.
Jute, Cane, and Rattan
Jute, cane, and rattan are all made from durable fibers, just like your jeans. Their natural, neutral finish allows you to coordinate these materials with any color or pattern. Plus, they also add a textural element to the space like a ripped pair of jeans does to an outfit.
Wood Paneling, Trim, and Furniture
Wood elements like paneling, trim, and furnishings can be as rustic as a cowboy or as refined as an East Coast prepster. Like jeans, this design element is versatile and can take on any look you’d like. Plus, wood carries the same honest sense of integrity as hardworking denim.
And, of Course, Denim Decor
We couldn’t leave denim off the list! Denim home decor might initially conjure up images of 90s sectionals, but using this textile to create beautiful interiors is as easy as grabbing your favorite jeans off the rack. Denim is sustainable, durable, and available in many more washes than the mid-tone blue of your 90s sofa. And many home brands are finding fresh ways to incorporate the material into decor items in a range of styles.
Feeling Blue (Jeans)
While we’re not all decking out our homes in denim, the spirit of blue jeans plays a subconscious role in how we think about our interiors. We want our spaces to be durable, comfortable, and personal, just like our favorite pair of jeans. So for your next design project, look no further than the inspiration in your closet.
Now, I’m going to relax and kick back in my favorite pair of jeans.