Blue denim: An American classic


If I could live with only one fabric for the rest of my life, I would pick denim. Denim has been a part of my life, part of what inspires me in designing, and what I wear nearly every day.

When most of us think of denim, we think of our favorite jeans. They’re our favorite for a reason - they’re comfortable! Why not extend those easy, relaxed feelings into your home? Denim is versatile and works well with a variety of styles and colors. Even better, it’s washable, durable, and inviting.

For years, cowboys, miners, farmers, movie stars, and trendy teens have worn denim. Blue denim also brings a charm and homespun quality to the home, thanks to throw pillows, bedding, table linens, and other accessories designed in this cotton fabric.

While being produced in this country since the late 18th century, it was Bavarian born Levi Strauss who made blue denim an American icon. Teaming up with tailor, Jacob Davis, they began producing copper riveted “waist overalls” in blue denim that was embraced by farmers and other manual laborers, then came to symbolize the American cowboy in the 1930s. During the 1950s, blue jeans were all the rage for teens across the country after having been seen on the silver screen by Marlon Brando, James Dean, and the like. The craze for denim continues today.

Blue denim and chambray seem to go with everything from black to white, to florals, to stripes, to whimsy ginghams and plaids. Sink into a soft washed denim sofa, and you’ll feel right at home. Pair denim fabric with a delicate pastoral homespun floral, crisp check, or buttery leather in any room, or throughout your home, and you’re bound to please everyone.

Because denim is a plain fabric, it takes well to dressing up with trims. Cording, welting, and fringe, mixed and matched in complimentary colors and textures, add a richly detailed interest to this at ease, casual fabric. A grouping of pillows, an upholstered piece of furniture, or draperies that are detailed in trims add that high style to denim blues.

You can even put a denim look on your walls. Ralph Lauren Paint offers a denim kit available at Home Depot, which contains tools that allow you to create the classic look of denim in Faded Overalls, Flag Blue, and Stonewashed Blue paint colors for those special looks. Add bold sporting stripe accents in a denim-painted room, or classic oxford stripes for that collegiate look, or what I call a GQ Surf Prep look - it’s wonderfully All-American.

Bedrooms are other spaces where denim feels right at home. Denim comforters and bed skirts, chambray sheets and draperies will surround you in denim heaven. Break up the all-denim look with crisp white linens for a romantic mix. Denim used with patterns such as paisleys or rich leather textures give a masculine, rugged, and luxurious look to a room. Dress up denim with a chintzy floral fabric, soft velvet and suede for that refined, traditional, English Country style.

Use denim as a base fabric when sporting the red, white, and blue - our nation’s colors. As the Fourth of July approaches, most events center around a meal - whether it be a picnic, a pool party extravaganza, or a sumptuous dinner buffet. Using denim as a generous table covering or layered table runners creates a charming backdrop for the rest of the setting. Add a creative centerpiece using fresh red roses or dahlias with blue delphiniums perhaps to play up the color scheme. Use an uncomplicated container such as an antique flower watering can or a simple galvanized vessel, accented with a flag or three to set the patriotic mood. Accessorize using simple white dishes - (Ralph Lauren has denim patterned dishes), add some red and blue serving pieces for an effective and bold yet easy All-American festive look. Thoughtful additions, such as personalized place cards and oversized denim napkins will make everything taste better, complete the look and who knows, maybe spark fireworks.

Fashion fads come and go, but durable, casual denim refuses to fade away. Blue denim is timeless, indifferent to fashion trends. It may take the form of a favorite pair of jeans, a curtain fabric rich in texture, or a luxurious set of chambray sheets, but it is always comfortable and familiar. Rugged, yet soft, and always at ease, blue denim is an American classic that gets better with time.