In an installation of floor-to-ceiling denim with pockets containing everything from Marlboro Reds to 5-hour Energy, a series of distorted black and white photographs scrawled with text, and a group of chandeliers comprising cigarettes, smiley faces and Big Gulps, this installation explores the mythology and branding embedded in America’s most storied fashion innovation.
The kind of jeans you wear visually defines your age, personality, and subculture, whether you like it or not. In a hyper-partisan climate, the kind of cigarettes you smoke broadcasts your political affiliation. The right’s assault on political correctness included overt reference to skinny jeans while distressed denim surged in popularity as perhaps a signifier of authenticity. Historically, Republican presidents wore jeans in an attempt to relate to the working class. Jimmy Carter literally defined his campaign on them. Reagan and GWB wore boot-cut, Texas-style jeans with ample room. When Obama threw out the first pitch for the 2009 All Star Game in dad jeans, he earned years of ridicule, and Mitt Romney’s high-waisted, light wash denim quickly became meme fodder. Bill Clinton in jeans was, to the GOP, the definition of subversion.