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The Blue Jean Book: The Story Behind the Seams

by Tanya Lloyd Kyi

Of all sartorial success stories, that of blue jeans must be the most remarkable. When first fashioned in California in the 1870s, denim overalls with copper rivets had immediate appeal as a practical, durable garment for miners, farmers, and ranch hands. Tanya Lloyd Kyi tells readers how a combination of clever marketing and cultural factors eventually made the humble workers’ garment a worldwide style – and sometimes a fashion extravaganza, with certain designer jeans selling for thousands of dollars a pair.

Kyi, a Vancouver author of novels and non-fiction for young people, gives a very readable, teen-friendly account of the making and marketing of blue jeans, with lots of humorous detail and many illustrations: old ads, items from “Ripley’s Believe It or Not,” movie stills, and photos of wearers and makers of jeans in other parts of the world. In telling the story of blue jeans, Kyi brings in wider aspects of history, such as the California Gold Rush and the Second World War, and gives a useful account of social and cultural changes in the decades between the 1930s and the 1980s.

The Blue Jean Book also has a social conscience, reporting on the environmental problems associated with the production of cotton and the dyeing process, and the terrible working conditions experienced by third-world labourers creating many of the top-selling North American brands. Kyi uses anecdotes and specific details to make her points without belabouring them, but her acknowledgement that many teens care about the environmental and social impacts of their purchases adds depth to her story.

While the book is largely focused on the United States, there are a number of references to Canada and to Australia (where 80% of all pants sold are jeans). An index and two-page list of source material make the book a useful reference tool as well as an entertaining story.


Reviewer: Gwyneth Evans

Publisher: Annick Press


Price: $24.95

Page Count: 80 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 1-55037-917-8

Released: Sept.

Issue Date: 2005-11


Age Range: 12+