Denim has played a leading role throughout fashion’s history, taking center stage in protests and cultural moments alike. Worn by individuals from virtually every class and demographic, the fabric’s ability to serve the full range of humanity is not lost on the big screen.
Films of past and present include denim as a key piece of the wardrobe—and in some cases, they revolve around it. “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” are just some of the movies with jeans literally written into the script. Rivet rounded up the most iconic denim moments in film that celebrate the material’s rebellious, relatable influence.
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, 2019
Though various Hollywood A-listers came together in “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” to tell the story of an actor and his stunt double, the real star was the vintage denim worn throughout—specifically a Wrangler jacket that perfectly encapsulates the style of the decade.
Based on a 2005 novel of the same name, “Drive” was brought to life via the big screen in 2011 with Ryan Gosling as the unnamed Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver. Fittingly, his signature all-denim outfit reflects his rebellious career and side gig. His denim jacket and dark jeans serve as the iconic getup for many of the action-packed scenes.
Brokeback Mountain, 2005
Denim’s Western origins were on display throughout the highly acclaimed story of two cowboys with a secret romantic relationship. Ennis and Jack are shown over the course of several years hiding their love from the rest of society, often clad in a variety of denim shirts, jackets and jeans, classic cowboy attire.
The Dukes of Hazzard, 2005
“Daisy dukes” were the real star of the 2005 film reboot of the TV series “The Dukes of Hazzard,” which centers around a family living in Georgia’s rough backwoods. As they battle to save their farm, characters wear their own unique take on denim, with some wearing worn-in blue jeans, others in classic overalls and Daisy in her cutoff denim “hot pants,” which launched a lasting fashion trend off-screen.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, 2005
Tibby, Lena, Carmen and Bridget spend a summer apart, but remain connected via a pair of secondhand jeans that fit each of them perfectly, despite being different shapes and sizes. The story follows each of their adventures throughout the summer, which they document with a letter exchange. The jeans remain an integral part of the story in the sequel, and a third could be on the way.
The Sandlot, 1993
Denim has no age minimum or limit, as best demonstrated in “The Sandlot,” which follows a group of young boys playing for their local baseball team in the summer of 1962. Frequently dressed in jeans and T-shirts, the crew shares a number of adventures that turned the film into a cult classic.
Dazed and Confused, 1993
Though it debuted in the early ‘90s, “Dazed and Confused” was set in the 1970s and featured an array of denim that reflected the hippie culture. Packed with light-wash denim, bell bottoms and overalls, the film perfectly captured the essence of high school fashion in the ‘70s.
Thelma and Louise, 1991
Old cars, vintage denim and rebellious women starred in the 1991 classic “Thelma and Louise.” One of the movie’s most iconic stills shows the duo in high waisted light wash jeans and muscle tanks on top of their ’66 Thunderbird in the desert. Even co-star Brad Pitt got onboard the denim trend, wearing a denim shirt that stole the show.
Dirty Dancing, 1987
One of the most iconic moments in “Dirty Dancing” features a big dose of denim: Baby sports a pair of acid-wash pedal pushers and a tied-up white button down, and Johnny wears slim-fitting black jeans with a black tank top and leather boots. The styles are classic of the 1960s, when the film was set.
The Breakfast Club, 1985
“The Breakfast Club” demonstrates exactly what growing up in the ‘80s looked like. Saturday detention unites five high school students from different cliques, each with their own style—including John Bender, the “bad boy” always dressed in rugged denim.
The Outsiders, 1983
Few movie wardrobes are more iconic than “The Outsiders,” best known for the Mickey Mouse vintage denim ensemble worn by the Greaser gang. Jeans play a major role in both the book and the movie, underscoring the rebellious nature of everyone’s favorite wardrobe staple.
The cuffed jeans and leather jackets worn by Danny Zuko and his fellow T-Birds were almost as noteworthy as the on-screen romance between Danny and Sandy Olsson. Finished off with leather boots and a cigarette tucked behind the ear, the classic greaser outfit got significant screen time.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s 1961
Audrey Hepburn is a symbol of class and grace. So when her character Holly Golightly is shown in blue jeans, a gray sweater and a cloth around her head playing guitar on her windowsill in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” it showed the true range of denim.
Rebel Without a Cause, 1955
Jim Stark, played by movie star James Dean, is the classic bad boy in “Rebel Without a Cause.” With a red windbreaker and jeans most frequently cladding the leading man, the outfit has since become one of the most iconic ensembles in film history—and commonly symbolic of the tough, rugged archetype.
River of No Return, 1954
Marilyn Monroe played Kay Weston in the 1954 film “River of No Return,” and was one of the first women to wear jeans on-screen. The high-waisted pair she famously wore while adventuring through a forest in the film became a classic scene that set the tone for future film wardrobes.
The Wild One, 1953
A biker jacket, white T-shirt, jeans and boots were the garments of choice for Marlon Brando’s bad-boy biker character in “The Wild One.” The movie features Johnny Strabler, leader of the motorcycle gang “Black Rebels,” who makes mischief wherever he goes.