EDITORIAL | History of Bootcut Jeans

We’ve received some great feedback on our last denim post “The History of Skinny Jeans” that we’re excited to feature this week’s Art of Denim: History of Bootcut Jeans.

The bootcut, probably the most resilient denim fit out there. As it should be, the history of the bootcut jean has a very down-to-earth, rugged background “Originally influenced by the naval-cut trousers of the 1850s, bootcut jeans found prominence amongst cowboys and ranch workers as they allowed them plenty of room to wear their favourite boots, whilst still being tight enough around the hips to wear whilst riding a horse.” (Why Bootcuts jeans are never out of fashion, 2011)

Form and function is the key of the Bootcut Jean, a no-fuss, no muss approach, it is for those who want the durability and comfort in a world with ever-evolving trends and tastes. If they skinny jean was the rebellious younger brother, then the bootcut was the reliable, older brother. But the bootcut is no wallflower, as mentioned it was originally influenced in the 1850s through manual labourers like ranch workers and coal miners. Talk about “bad-ass” and tough appeal, let’s take a brief look at the progression of this fit throughout time and the key influences.

40s and 50s

Although jeans have been around longer, the trend of denim worn outside of manual labour jobs and as “casual wear” didn’t take off until Hollywood started to use them as part of costumes on the big screen, notably the classic Western movies we know and love today.

“As railways replaced wagon trails, and cowboys hung up their spurs, Hollywood began to present their glossy Cinemax version of the Old West to paying audiences hungry for nostalgia…Similarly, former cowboys were brought in-house by denim giants (Levi’s on the West Coast and Lee on the East Coast and Mid West) as consultants. In 1941, Lee enlisted the help of rodeo star Turk Greenough to improve the fit of their jeans. His wife Sally Rand, re-tailored a standard pair of Lee jeans with a tighter fit and a slight flare for her husband’s riding boots. The resulting ‘boot cut’ quickly became the jean of choice across America.” (Denim: a Riveting History, www.oki-ni.com/stry/history-of-denim)


(Brad Pitt who?) Original Hearthrob Paul Newman in the silver screen rocking that cowboy look.


 Not just for cowboys. James Dean in Rebel without a Cause

 Late 80s and 90s

 The Bootcut Jean comes back. After being in the shadows of the Skinny Jean, the Flare or “Bellbottoms” throughout the last two decades, this resilient jean makes it way into the latter part of the 20th century. After all the bells-and-whistles from the 60s and 70s, it was time to get back to the classics. “After the wild 70s and 80s, the 90s appeared to have become effortless in comparison. The famous grunge look was popularized by bands of the 90s such as Nirvana. Common trends included boot cut jeans or high rise for females, loose shirts, floral prints, hip hop inspired clothes, and classic blazers.” (20th Century Fashion, 2011) The MTV Generation also heavily influenced the market and designers took notice as this group of young consumers defined their own look separate from their previous youth counterparts. Designer brands also took note and shifted their approach to premium denim to grow with their new demographic. Stonewashed denim and higher rises were the norm.


 Jason Priestly and his Canadian Tuxedo (Original 90210 cast)



The Bootcut is still around and as with the Skinny Jean, has evolved over time with new versions as defined by different types of premium brands. For example, Hudson Jeans have their Signature Bootcut, but also offers a “Baby Bootcut” version for those who want a bit more fashion-forward look. New brands in the market as well as enduring ones like Levi’s Strauss all have a bootcut jean available in their offering, because it’s such a classic style that seems to stand the test of time regardless of what “fad denim” is in for the season. There will always be the Ultra-Skinny or Mega-Flare that makes it way back into fashion, but there is definitely still a market for the Bootcut. We know this experience first-hand in store, as some of our best sellers in both men's and women's jeans fall into this category.