Coffee table books and the tomes that line their shelves can reveal a lot about people’s interests—including denim.
Keep a well-stocked library of denim books with this round-up titles that cover denim’s role in U.S. history, how jeans became a symbol of youth rebellion and how the denim industry is joining the movement for sustainable fashion.
“Blue Blooded: Denim Hunters and Jeans Culture,” by Thomas Stege Bojer
Few books give readers a complete understanding of denim the way “Blue Blooded: Denim Hunters and Jeans Culture” does. As an expert in the industry, co-author Thomas Stege Bojer—whose career highlights include founding online denim community Denim Hunters and co-hosting The Denim and Boots Podcast—covers everything from denim’s history to current brands shaping the industry. The book also goes in-depth on how to style jeans, when to wash them and where to buy them.
Reviewers say: “Whether you want to geek out on the technical details of indigo dyeing, weaving and fabric finishes or discover the true origins of the Osaka Five, or you simply want to figure out how to style and wear your jeans, Blue Blooded provides you with a foolproof overview of our favorite wardrobe staple and trusty twill.”—WGSN
Buy “Blue Blooded: Denim Hunters and Jeans Culture,” by Thomas Stege Bojer, $35, here.
“Denim: An American Story,” by David Little
If there’s one fabric representative of American history, it’s denim. Invented during the Gold Rush of the 1840s and 1850s, denim helped shape American culture, making it much more than a fashion staple. “Denim: An American Story” discusses the evolution of jeans through an American lens, focusing on different time periods and including artful photography to go along with it. This is the second book from author David Little—a professor of the practice in religion, ethnicity, and international conflict at Harvard—who first published “Vintage Denim” in 1996.
Reviewers say: “…I searched for images of [a friend’s] signature jacket, which led me to ‘Denim: An American Story.’ The author, David Little, got this book right. I found my jacket, but lost myself in a history I’d lived—some of it, anyway. It was break-your-heart memories page after page.”—ketooks, Amazon
Buy “Denim: An American Story,” by David Little, $29.95, here.
“Levi Strauss & Co.” by Lynn Downey
The word “Levi’s” has become synonymous with jeans, thanks to the brand’s rich history dating all the way back to 1853. “Levi Strauss & Co.” travels through history to that fateful period of time that birthed the denim industry, when the first pair of blue jeans was made. Ever since, the company has been a leader in community service, underscored by the Levi Strauss Foundation, its philanthropic arm, which was created in Strauss’ honor after World War II.
Reviewers say: “Full of good images and a very extensive and detailed history. Very good! I really suggest it to everyone who works with jeans or would like to know more about it.”—Andre Clementino, Amazon
Buy “Levi Strauss & Co.” by Lynn Downey, $14, here.
“Denim: From Cowboys to Catwalks,” by Graham Marsh and Paul Trynka
From 17th-century France to modern-day America, denim has a rich story to tell—and “Denim: From Cowboys to Catwalks” does so with rare photos of icons wearing denim, as well as classic garments throughout history. It also includes a glossary of denim terms and a guide to valuable vintage items, both of which are useful to all denim heads vying for a one-of-a-kind piece to complete their collection.
Reviewers say: “Anyone with an interest in denim will find this wonderful book to be a very easy and enlightening read. The pictures are all bright, clear, and of high quality. There are several great images of musicians and celebrities wearing denim (Elvis, Marvin Gaye, Miles Davis) as well as close-up shots of vintage jeans (the first known pair of Levis!).”—R. Bogart, Amazon
Buy “Denim: From Cowboys to Catwalks,” by Graham Marsh and Paul Trynka, $15.64, here.
“Denim Dudes: Street Style, Vintage, Workwear, Obsession,” by Amy Leverton
Before Amy Leverton launched Denim Dudes, an online community for denim heads, she wrote the book on it. Featuring a combination of street-style looks from fashion capitols around the world and spotlights on global denim icons, the book offers a fresh take on the industry. Its pages are filled with inspirational photographs and short stories that capture the wide appeal of the classic fabric.
Reviewers say: “A street style book, ‘Denim Dudes’ will appeal to you whether you’re newly obsessed with the world of selvedge denim or have always been a little crazy about this timeless textile.”—Uncrate
Buy “Denim Dudes: Street Style, Vintage, Workwear, Obsession,” by Amy Leverton, $16.20, here.
“Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style,” by W. David Marx
Most denim heads know that Japan is a denim hub, but what they may not know is just how much of American style was shaped by the country throughout history. Even retailers today—Uniqlo, Kamakura Shirts, Evisu, and Kapital—demonstrate the intersection of both cultures. In “Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style,” cultural historian W. David Marx covers the history of America’s and Japan’s fashion industries and how they overlap.
Reviewers say: “‘Ametora’ by W. David Marx traces the craze for American fashion after World War II in Japan, but it quickly becomes larger than that. It’s a fascinating window into how fashion, culture and history intersect; you end up learning about several things at once.”―B.J. Novak, Wall Street Journal
Buy “Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style,” by W. David Marx, $56.50, here.
“A Denim Story: Inspirations from Bellbottoms to Boyfriends,” by Emily Current, Meritt Elliott, Hilary Walsh
Designers Emily Current and Meritt Elliott—co-founders of denim brand Current/Elliot—and Hilary Walsh curated a collection of images that pay homage to denim’s role in American culture. Highlighting denim looks from celebrities throughout history—Marilyn Monroe, Patti Smith, Jane Birkin, and Kate Moss—as well as looks that appear in the authors’ inspiration boards, the book captures denim’s vast range.
Reviewers say: “‘A Denim Story’ categorizes and classifies denim, from overalls to American Summer styles, workwear shapes to the most loved, lived-in pairs.”—Style.com
Buy “A Denim Story: Inspirations from Bellbottoms to Boyfriends,” by Emily Current, Meritt Elliott, Hilary Walsh, $19.77, here.
“Jeans: A Cultural History of an American Icon,” by James Sullivan
From workers’ uniforms to designer statement pieces, jeans have been woven into America’s history for more than a century. “Jeans: A Cultural History of an American Icon” takes a look at “popular American culture as told through its pants.” Author James Sullivan, whose work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Rolling Stone and others, shows how jeans have always been a garment that connected people from all different segments.
Reviewers say: “Fascinating… ‘Jeans’ succeeds on many levels: providing a fun, reader-friendly overview for denim novices, and insights into dyes and distressing for fanatics like us.”—Nylon
Buy “Jeans: A Cultural History of an American Icon,” by James Sullivan, $15, here.
“Fugitive Denim: A Moving Story of People and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade,” by Rachel Louise Snyder
The true cost of a pair of jeans involves much more than a price tag. In “Fugitive Denim,” Rachel Louise Snyder tells the stories of the people involved in the production of jeans, including a Cambodian seamstress, a denim maker in Italy and others. The book covers the social, environmental and political influences currently shaping the denim industry.
Reviewers say: “A fascinating chronicle of the $55-billion-a-year global denim industry.”―David Futrelle, Los Angeles Times
Buy “Fugitive Denim: A Moving Story of People and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade,” by Rachel Louise Snyder, $16.95, here.
“Making Jeans Green: Linking Sustainability, Business and Fashion,” by Paulina Szmydke-Cacciapalle
In “Making Jeans Green,” author Paulina Szmydke-Cacciapalle gives a detailed look at the denim supply chain and offers green solutions at every stage. Intended for fashion researchers and decision-makers, the book also appeals to denim lovers who want to learn more about the process of making jeans—and how to buy, wear and dispose them responsibly.
Reviewers say: “This book will be an excellent text for a class that addresses sustainability practices. The use of the product development pipeline for jeans is a great way to spotlight key sustainability concepts, and teach terminology and best practices for environmentally green processes and outcomes.”―Carol J. Salusso, Associate Professor, Washington State University
Buy “Making Jeans Green: Linking Sustainability, Business and Fashion,” by Paulina Szmydke-Cacciapalle, $16.05, here.