Cast your mind back to the dark days before Instagram. It’s 1991 and a young Hollywood star, Drew Barrymore, is snapped wearing a baggy trucker jacket and washed-out blue jeans at the Toy Soldiers film premier in LA. It’s a virtually identical denim pairing to that worn by Marilyn Monroe on the set of The Misfits in 1960, and with the advent of Tumblr in 2007, Barrymore’s look would see her heralded as a ’90s grunge style icon (all over again), and subsumed into Noughties fashion vernacular.
Cue a new generation of US stars, including Hailey Bieber and Gigi Hadid, whose modern-day reworking of the oversized, jean-on-jean formula pays dues to both Monroe and Barrymore’s pioneering talent for shopping the menswear aisle. The slouchy, ’90s throwback mood may be an Instagram mainstay for the young women who command eight-digit online followings, but in reality double denim is markedly different from most other fashion trends in that it has held fast as the ungendered uniform of the famous and non-famous alike since its rebellious beginnings in the ’50s.
The phrase “Canadian tuxedo” is itself reported to have originated in 1951 after Bing Crosby was refused entry to a hotel in the country because he was wearing an off-duty, all-denim ensemble. Celebrity status notwithstanding, he’d failed to meet the acceptable dress code. By the close of the decade, Elvis’s workaday duo of jeans and denim jacket was an unnerving proposition for the upper echelons of the American middle classes, who feared for the morality of their teenage offspring. Unsurprisingly, for his youthful global fan base, this guaranteed the look caught on, with the star’s non-conformist style distinguishing a new kind of pop culture hero who had the confidence to celebrate his working-class roots through what he wore.
It’s no coincidence that head-to-toe denim has denoted other radical musicians ever since. Flick to Blondie frontwoman, Debbie Harry, on stage in 1978 wearing a cropped denim jacket teamed with indigo jeans tucked into knee-high boots, her feline eyes fiercely circled with sooty kohl. Or Sade, the British-Nigerian singer and songwriter who, back in the ’80s, revitalised the notion of polished femininity in pop music, all while wearing a pared-back chambray shirt and blue jeans.
No one has hit the power-down button on the double-denim trend yet because its egalitarian powers are unchanged. And – as Lauren Hutton, Madonna and Rihanna all know – that’s a pretty good principle to dress by.