denim school

Denim & School Fun Facts

During the 1950s, denim and school didn’t go well hand in hand. Denim became more popular after World War 2. Before this time, denim was mostly seen as a true workwear garment, but the fifties changed this mindset. Especially for the young generation. They were blown away by seeing the now cult movies ‘The Wild One’ starring Marlon Brando and ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ with James Dean. These actors embraced the rebel motorcycle style. They were dressed in a pair of jeans combined with a white t-shirt, leather jacket, and boots. An outfit that became synonymous with rebels.

Also, motor clubs started to arise by the end of the Second World War. These riders were also dressed in denim and were the rudy boys on the streets. They cut off their denim jackets into so-called denim cuts and customized them with embroideries and patches. You can read and learn more about these denim cuts in the previous article here.

As the youth started to rebel against their parents and the system in general, jeans became more and more popular. On the other hand, parents weren’t so happy with this new denim style. And so didn’t schools. But, what are the 5 funny links between denim and school? Let’s highlight the 5 you didn’t know before. Back to school, in denim of course ; )

1. Denim banned at school

Many schools banned denim during the 1950s. They thought that the rebel-style movies were a bad influence on the youth. As the film heroes of the youth were dressed in denim, they banned it from being worn during school time. Luckily this changed over the years and most kids can wear it nowadays. But still, some places don’t allow it…Same in offices, but with the introduction of the ‘Casual Fridays’, jeans are seen way more at offices too.

Fun fact: George Bush banned wearing jeans in the White House in 2011.

2. Right for school campaign

As denim had a bad reputation in the eyes of many schools, Levi’s started a promotion campaign ‘Right for School’ during the 1950s. In these new advertisements, students were dressed in denim while carrying books. A statement to get the denim popular again while going to school. Nowadays, all brands are promoting their new denim collections just before the Summer holidays are over. This is to stimulate their sales and get everyone dressed in denim to get ready for a new school year.

Fun fact: These days most teachers are dressed in denim too, talking about an evolution…

Extra fact: Back in the day, Levi’s gave away denim book covers, denim book bags, and denim pencil bags so students could have something denim for school.

Extra extra fact: In Amsterdam, there’s even a school dedicated to jeans, the Jean School. This education opened its doors back in 2012 and is the first and only school in the world that is fully dedicated to this subject. The students will learn every step of the craftsmanship of denim design and development.

3. Cuffing your jeans at school

Back in the day, jeans weren’t made in different lengths. And next to that, they were made with Unsanforized denim fabrics. This kind of fabric is also known as Loom state or Shrink-to-fit. Fabrics that don’t get any treatment at a denim mill. This means that these fabrics will shrink up around 10% after the first wash (Normally Sanforized fabrics will shrink around 1 – 3%.). So, when you bought jeans back then, you had to keep in mind to size up your waist size by two and the length of your jeans at least 3 inches. This ended up in wearing your jeans with high cuffs. These cuffs were often used as an extra pocket for storage. Kids at high school used it for their coins, candy, and sometimes for pencils too. Smart, right?!

Fun fact: Cowboys were using denim cuffs as storage too while riding their horses. They kept several personal belongings in it, like cigarettes, tobacco, or their whiskey tin. For them, it was easier to reach their cuffs instead of their saddle bags. More about this topic here.

4. Bleaching blue jeans for school

Some students were smart, very smart. As they weren’t allowed to wear blue jeans to school, they came up with a brilliant idea. They started to bleach their blue jeans so they still had the feeling of wearing their beloved pairs, but then in a light-colored whitesh version. They kicked-off the bleach and white/ecru jeans movement.

Fun fact: You can say that these students were very innovative as later within the denim industry, many denim brands adopted this to give blue jeans a different or older look. These days most denim factories are using laser machines to get rid of the blue indigo top layer in order to re-create a wear pattern. A way more sustainable approach!

5. Customizing denim jackets for school events

Although jeans weren’t always allowed right after World War 2, students at universities started customizing their denim jackets from 1940 onwards. They used their jackets as a sort of canvas for their yearly school events. The jackets were embroidered with the authentic chain stitch technique. For example, the University of Houston has set up the Frontier Fiesta festival each year since 1939. The students transformed their campus into a fully functional town called ‘Fiesta City’. At its peak from 1946 through 1959, the festival received national attention by drawing huge crowds of up to 200,000 people and was profiled in Life magazine.

The University of Missouri in Columbia Missouri, USA was also known for special student events. They brought the agricultural students, also known as the ‘Aggies’ together in social fun events such as the Bonde Fest or Farmer’s Fair.

Fun fact: The recently launched Long John x Blue Blanket collaboration jacket is inspired by an original University of Missouri student jacket. On the back of the jacket, there’s a huge horseshoe design, inspired by the original. More about this jacket (and the history) can be read here.

In case you want to learn more about denim, this to train yourself, store or brand staff, send me an e-mail to: to discuss the opportunities how we can achieve this. I’m happy to learn you more!

Written by Wouter Munnichs
I'm the founder of Long John. Next to running this daily magazine, I'm working as a freelance denim specialist for the industry. Titled as 'Denim Influencer 2020' by Rivet 50. Celebrated my 10th anniversary with Long John in 2021.