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June 28, 2020 4 min read 3 Comments

Denim Jackets: Past and Present

The jean jacket is one of the most ubiquitous items in American fashion. Whether you consider yourself a rocker, a cowboy, a fashionista, or a hippie, you most likely have one – or half a dozen – in your wardrobe.

They are the epitome of timeless. In fact, the image that likely comes to mind when you hear “jean jacket” is the “Trucker Jacket” that Levi Strauss designed way back in the 1950s. Every designer and era has put their own touches on it over the years, but the bone structure has more or less endured for going on seven decades now.

But it wasn’t Strauss’ first go at the popular piece. According to most sources, his first design came about 10 years after he invented jeans, around 1890, with what they called the Triple Pleat Blouse. It was intended to be a rugged but breathable utility garment for men who worked in physically demanding conditions, such as cowboys, miners, and railroad workers. The garment’s name came from the three pleats on each side of the button-down placket that were stitched together with horizontal seams that could be removed for expansion, should the wearer need a little more room in the jacket. (Brilliant, really.)

A few different iterations followed, what Levi’s called the Type I and Type II -- playing with different styles and quantity of pockets, losing the back cinch, and replacing the original rivets with bar tacks -- before landing on the Type III, or the Trucker Jacket, that has become the quintessential classic. This version was constructed of much heavier pre-shrunk denim, as opposed to the lighter raw denim used in the original workshirts and early jacket types, and featured a more tailored fit and those signature pointed flaps on the breast pockets. Upon its release, the Trucker Jacket was declared “the jean jacket to rule them all”, and considering the go-to garment has changed very little since the inception of the Type III style, I think it’s safe to say, it was and still is.

While the history of Levi Strauss and his jean jacket design is an interesting one, so is ours. In Willie’s Picnic we designed a denim jacket (duh, have you ever seen Willie without one?) with the image of a flag on the back, because this collection is all about Americana. We love it, y’all are loving it, and it’s going to be one of those jackets that stands the test of time and is coveted by (and eventually handed down to) daughters and nieces. But what you may not know about this patriotic piece, is this is not Double D’s first rodeo with a denim flag jacket. And boy, oh boy, was our first go a rodeo!

The original Double D Ranch Flag Jacket appeared in our first spring collection in 1991. (The same year we designed that first bandana-inspired wrap skirt – one of our very favorite outfits and images of our gorgeous Audrey.) It was a pretty classic cut, medium wash denim jacket, perfectly en vogue at the time, but what really made it fabulous and classic DDR was the hand-dyed wool flag on the back. And in true Double D fashion, out of dedication to authenticity and Cheryl’s vision, we made accomplishing the look just as difficult as possible. 

Here’s the backstory: Back in the day, there was a woman in our little sleepy town of Yoakum, Texas, who was an absolute expert at this old technique of rug-hooking, and she hand-dyed all of her own wool fabrics using authentic old school methods like pigments from plants and vintage dye processes. Absolutely beautiful work, painstakingly crafted, and come to find out – incredibly difficult to master. Cheryl actually took one of her classes in hopes of learning the technique herself, but let’s just say… she didn’t.

But, her infatuation with those fabrics and techniques never waned, and when it came to creating these denim flag jackets, Cheryl was determined this is how they would be made.

“When I decided on the flag, I knew I wanted it to look old and vintage-y,” Cheryl explained. “So I went to her with my vision and said, ‘Can we cut, dye, and make a flag out of these wool fabrics to put on the back of these jackets?’ and I’m pretty sure she laughed in my face and said, ‘Absolutely not. There’s no way.’ So I pleaded with her, ‘ok, well, just try one’ and long story short, after many, many painstaking hours of dying and assembling, and embroidering the stars on, we had a beautiful collection of jackets adorned with original hand-dyed wool flags. This year’s version was a little easier to create; we were young and crazy back then.” 

With this year being a milestone year for Double D Ranch, we’ve done a lot of reflecting and revisiting of our favorite pieces and revived a few for our 30th anniversary collections. The flag jacket, of course, was one of them.

By sheer coincidence or the grace of God, both of these flag jackets came at troubling times for America – the original debuting amidst the Gulf War, and this version, well, we don’t need to tell you what’s going on in our country right now. Of course, we designed this year’s version nearly a year ago, long before we knew what we’d be facing as a nation right now, and certainly without agenda, but we’re honored to have our name on this wearable piece of patriotism. It might have been a little easier to manufacture, but we’re every bit as proud of the Flag Jacket For 30 as we were of the first one.

3 Responses

Lisa Chabot
Lisa Chabot

June 28, 2020

I have the vest from that collection.

Carol Stoneburner
Carol Stoneburner

June 28, 2020

It is exceptional. I need one. Tom and I are flag wavers and very patriotic!! God Bless America. Thank you for designing it at the perfect time.

Carina Spies
Carina Spies

June 28, 2020

Wow! So interesting to read about all of this, specially as I am not familiar with this part of the history! Thank you so much for sharing!! Love it!!!♥️

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