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The NonVerbal Dictionary of Gestures, Signs & Body Language Cues

Blue Jeans



Policy 9805 states "Jeans and other types of similar apparel are not to be worn in areas where patient services are provided." --Sacred Heart Medical Center's weekly newsletter, Monday A.M.(Vol. 22, No. 17, p. 4, Spokane, Washington, April 24, 2000)


Clothing cue. Usually close-fitting trousers of coarse twill, blue cotton cloth, worn to oppose the formality of dress slacks.


Usage: Debuting in the 1954 movie, The Wild One, Marlon Brando's blue jeans launched Levi's as a medium of mass communication (see MEDIA). Since the year of their patent in 1873, when rivets were added to strengthen the seams, Levi's jeans have been prized for their durability and protection. Since Wild One, Levi's have become a universal fashion statement of "independence," "rebellion," and youthful rejection of the business suit.


Color. Indigo blue dye, produced from the leaves of the Indigofera plant, has been ". . . found in prehistoric cave paintings and used to color wool more than four thousand years ago" (Beller 1994:103). Synthetic indigo dye is used to color modern blue jeans.



Consumer product. In 1994 Levi's 501 was the best-selling jean in the world (Beller 1994).

Media. Worn with boots in the 1955 movie, Rebel Without a Cause, blue jeans reinforced the illusion that James Dean had his feet solidly planted on the sidewalk (seeANTIGRAVITY SIGN). Meanwhile, the rumpled fit of Dean's trousers sent a rebellious message to businessmen in gray-flannel suits. Blue jeans neither matched the corporate uniform of the day, nor exhibited the crisp crease worn as a status sign in the boardroom.
Primatology I. The groomed or scruffy appearance of a monkey's fur is a visual sign of high or low status, respectively. The best-groomed male baboon, e.g., is often the troop leader, and in the corporate domain leadership often shows in pressed jackets and conspicuously creased slacks. By combining bulky leather jackets, wrinkled denim, and boots, Brando and Dean not only threatened the establishment but launched a "disobedient" fashion statement which continues to challenge the status quo today.
Primatology II. A curious sign emanates from Rebel's studio posters: James Dean conspicuously displays his derriere. He stands in the movie ad with his back turned and his hands thrust into his jeans' back pockets. If Dean were any other primate than a human, primatologists would say he was presenting his hindquarters. In monkeys and apes, presenting is a gesture of submission and sexual display (see LOVE SIGNAL). The tiny red tag on the back of Levi's jeans is a messaging feature, designed to draw attention to the wearer's buttocks.
Primatology III. Presenting hindquarters in blue jeans became more fashionable in 1977 when a 15-year-old girl, Brooke Shields, bent over to advertise Calvin Kleinjeans. The curvilinear human behind is, among primates, a unique cue born a. of muscles for upright posture (gluteus maximus) and b. adipose tissue (i.e., fat) stored for childbirth. In her ads, Shields asked the rhetorical question, "You know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing."
RESEARCH REPORTS1. According to NASA, the mean buttock circumference in men is 39.2, and in women 37.4, inches. Though women have fuller, rounder bottoms, derrieres of both sexes are featured in jeans ads (see LOVE SIGNALS I). 2. The favorite color of Americans is blue.
See also ARM-SHOWFOOTWEARLEG WEAR.