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As North Korea denunciates skinny jeans, a look at the garment’s symbolic importance, political journey over the years

As North Korea denunciates skinny denims, a have a look at the garment’s symbolic significance, political journey through the years

Whether or not banning Western vogue within the Soviet Union or the burqa in France, political management over what we put on has at all times been controversial. However what’s it about skinny denims that apparently conjures up a ban by North Korea at this time?

Denim denims have lengthy been political: now skinny denims are within the firing line. Picture by way of Shutterstock/The Dialog

By Harriette Richards

Final week, stories emerged that North Korea was banning skinny denims over considerations concerning their symbolic relationship with the “unique and decadent life-style” of capitalism. The crackdown on “anti-socialist behaviour” additionally reportedly bans mullet, spiky or dyed hairstyles and piercings.

Though an official assertion on the ban hasn’t been recognized, policing of private type in North Korea is just not new.

Political leaders have lengthy been conscious of the representational energy of vogue. In her e-book Vogue and Politics, vogue scholar Djurdja Bartlett notes that “as early because the Twenties, the Bolsheviks frowned on western vogue and its Artwork Deco opulence”.

The function of gown in selling allegiance to the nation-state can come within the type of a uniform or by way of the rejection of clothes seen to symbolise spiritual, ideological or political views.

Whether or not banning Western vogue within the Soviet Union or the burqa in France, political management over what we put on has at all times been controversial. However what’s it about skinny denims that apparently conjures up denunciation by North Korea at this time?

The thin on skinny denims

Slim or tight-fitted trousers are a direct descendant of tight males’s breeches worn within the 1800s.

Their denim offspring emerged within the Fifties as a part of the counter-cultural motion. Most frequently worn in a darkish wash with a cuffed hem, the denims, favoured by the likes of Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando, have been a gender-neutral illustration of other life within the wake of the second world struggle.

As North Korea denunciates skinny jeans a look at the garments symbolic importance political journey over the years

Marlon Brando rocking his denims in The Wild One. Picture courtesy: Stanley Kramer Productions by way of The Dialog

Within the Nineteen Sixties, denims within the “drainpipe” type — black and ultra-skinny — turned synonymous with rock and roll.

By way of the Seventies and 80s, the UK embraced the punk look – pioneered by designer Vivienne Westwood and the Intercourse Pistols, which noticed tight denims ripped, stained and security pinned.

As North Korea denunciates skinny jeans a look at the garments symbolic importance political journey over the years

The Conflict: skinny denims have been punk for some time. Picture courtesy: Helge Øverås/Wikimedia Commons

The Nineteen Nineties introduced dishevelled types for rave dancing, bootlegs and retro flares. However skinny denims didn’t keep gone for lengthy. The 2000s noticed them taken up, once more by subcultures — emos and goths, who wore them tremendous tight and low on the hips.

By the 2010s they appeared destined to stay round after being championed by Kate Moss, the Duchess of Cambridge and Michelle Obama.

Dying by TikTok

Rumblings of change within the denim market have been first heard within the late 2010s, when vogue journalists together with Sarah Spellings claimed we may start counting all the way down to the return of low-rise denims. The rise of 90s nostalgia vogue, popularised by fashions comparable to Bella Hadid, purchased a return of wide-legged matches and uncovered midriffs.

By 2019, skinny denims have been reportedly being usurped by so-called “mother denims”. And that was earlier than 2020 pressured everybody indoors, the place consolation trumped extra fitted types.

Gen Z “Zoomer” TikTokers lastly rang the loss of life knell for skinny denims — including a beat and a few dance strikes, after all. In early 2021, TikTok movies mocking Millennials for his or her side-parted hair and tight denim-clad legs went viral.

So, in the event that they’re now not cool, why would possibly North Korea need to ban them?


Bin them or burn them. Your selection.

Learn extra: Dressed for achievement – as staff return to the workplace, males would possibly lastly shed their fits and ties

Trouser energy

What we put on on our legs has lengthy been a topic of explicit political significance, particularly by way of class and gender differentiation.

Through the French Revolution, full size trousers turned synonymous with the beliefs of liberté, égalité, fraternité — however just for males. Girls remained sure by the Ancien Régime, excluded from sporting trousers and from the social freedoms they allowed.

It adopted that within the battle for suffrage, trousers turned a symbolic garment within the emancipation of girls as political topics.

Within the Nineteen Sixties, in the meantime, blue denim turned a logo of the US civil rights motion and in 1978, Levi Strauss & Co started large-scale shipments of denims behind the Iron Curtain.

Evaluation at this time reveals particular denim manufacturers are aligned with political preferences: American Democrat voters are likely to put on Levis, whereas Republican voters usually tend to choose Wrangler denims. Manufacturers may search to align themselves with customers by voicing help for particular points.

As North Korea denunciates skinny jeans a look at the garments symbolic importance political journey over the years

A Wrangler denims stall at an Australian rodeo present. Current analysis within the US discovered Republican voters have been extra possible than Democrats to put on Wrangler denims. Picture courtesy: Jordan Baker/AAP by way of The Dialog

Most just lately, a chief minister inside India’s Bharatiya Janata Get together authorities confronted condemnation after he tweeted that girls have been immoral for sporting denims that uncovered their knees.

Throughout India girls took to social media to voice their exasperation, posting images of themselves sporting torn denim with the hashtag #RippedJeans.

Learn extra: How girls in India reclaimed the protest energy of ripped denims

Denims are nonetheless upsetting the highly effective. Nonetheless, if the stories from North Korea are right, railing towards this symbolic garment might have given these keen to insurgent a clearer sense of what to put on.As North Korea denunciates skinny jeans a look at the garments symbolic importance political journey over the years

Harriette Richards, is a Analysis Affiliate in Cultural Research at, The College of Melbourne

This text is republished from The Dialog below a Inventive Commons license. Learn the unique article.


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Updated: June 2, 2021 — 9:48 am

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