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Friday, April 23, 2021

Explained: Ripped jeans — and everything about them

Ripped jeans have been around since the 70s. We look at their origin, popularity and modern adaptation.

Written by Ektaa Malik , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: March 21, 2021 10:32:29 am
Ripped jeans owe their origins to their close cousin, distressed jeans, which became hugely popular during the late ’70s, when the Punk-rock moment was unravelling globally.

Earlier this week, the newly sworn-in Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Tirath Singh Rawat, made some controversial comments regarding ripped jeans. “Showing bare knees by wearing ripped jeans just to look like rich kids is the value given now which is just a race towards westernisation when the Western world today is following us. Ripped jeans pave the way for societal breakdown and is a bad example parents set for children,” he said. His comments enraged women across age-groups, with many — including actor Kangana Ranaut and Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra — taking him on Twitter.

Ripped jeans have been around since the 70s. We look at their origin, popularity and modern adaptation:

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What exactly is ripped jeans?

It’s a pair of jeans which features a frayed, worn look, and has distinct ripped spaces, often at the knees, where the skin peeps out. These ‘rips’ can occur by overuse, or can be created at home in a DIY fashion with a blade or a pair of scissors. The idea is to loosen the tight woven material, and let the frayed ends loose.

Starting with Punk

Ripped jeans owe their origins to their close cousin, distressed jeans, which became hugely popular during the late ’70s, when the Punk-rock moment was unravelling globally. A large part of youth across the globe was feeling disoriented with the conventional society, and denim became their chosen language of expression. In Britain, bands like Sex Pistols championed the cause of denim and started adorning denim pants and jackets, dressing them up with safety pins, buttons and batches. Torn jeans became synonymous with dissent and hippie culture.

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The Resurgence

If Punk-rock appropriated torn jeans as their chosen form of expression, the ’90s adopted the ‘non-fashion’ mantra to fulfil the grunge theme. The decade saw ripped, loose jeans paired with pendletons, worn over T-shirts. This trend continued into the 2000s, where ripped jeans got its pride of place in the ‘casual chic’ variety of clothing. In the US, ripped jeans have been a favourite among musicians, right from Iggy Pop — who claims to be the one to start the trend in the US — to Curt Cobain and The Ramones. The 1988 ‘Shake-your-thang’ video from Salt and Pepa featured customised distressed, ripped denim prominently. Today globally, the ripped jeans are known to be associated with people and causes that are rebellious. Wearing it implies that you are grounded, but also a rebel at heart.

On the red carpet

Even the fashionistas have adopted the frayed garment into their closet. We have seen Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Aniston and Gigi Hadid sporting their ripped favourites. Closer home, Sonam Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone have been papped wearing this garment. NBC’s Saturday Night Live, too, featured a sketch with Wayne and Garth, who wore the ripped jeans right on the knees. Meghan Markle, too, made her first public appearance in 2017 at the Invictus Games with Harry Windsor in blue ripped jeans paired with a white shirt. This was 2017, and Markle sure had a head-start where breaking the royal protocol is concerned.

High-street appropriation

What started as a statement against the diktats of society, ripped jeans today is a billion-dollar business. Designer brands such as Diesel, Citizens of Humanity and Balmain have designed their ripped offerings, while high street brands like Zara, Levis, Marks & Spencer, too, have stocked up on the said item. Indian androgynous label, HUEMN had also dabbled with ripped jeans in their 2017 collection.

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