Just as baseball and apple pie are a part of America’s fabric, so are denim jackets—quite literally. Created by Levi Strauss in 1880 as a follow-up to the brand’s most popular garment (jeans, obviously), denim jackets were made expressly for the working class. Ranchers, railroad workers, and miners all wore denim jackets because of the durability and breathability they offered.
Around the 1950s, though, the denim jacket made a shift from worker bee jacket to a symbol of teenage rebellion. James Dean wore one in Rebel Without a Cause and cemented the jacket’s rabble-rouser status, so much so that denim was banned in several schools across the US.
Today, everyone from your uncle in Montana to celebrities in Los Angeles wear denim jackets, making them both pedestrian and ultra-fashionable simultaneously—likely the reason why the jacket has endured in a world that’s so fickle about fashion. The jacket’s versatility is incredible—don a denim jacket and you can look like anything from a too-cool-for-school rebel, a rockstar, a ranch hand, or Justin Timberlake in a full denim suit at the 2001 American Music Awards. Choose your jacket carefully.