Type I, Type II and Type III Denim Jackets - An Overview
Introduced in the late Nineteenth Century as a piece of practical and lasting workwear, the denim jacket was initially invented for the same purpose as a pair of jeans. With similar characteristics including durability and functionality, the denim jacket was seen as the ideal item for laborers, ranch hands, miners and more.
Introduced in the late Nineteenth Century as a piece of practical and lasting workwear, the denim jacket was initially invented for the same purpose as a pair of jeans. With similar characteristics including durability and functionality, the denim jacket was seen as the ideal item for laborers, ranch hands, miners and more. We often refer to ‘workwear’ when we speak about vintage-inspired menswear and denim, but workwear early in the Twentieth Century meant hard wearing garments for real workers. However, it didn’t stay that way for long. The humble denim jacket evolved into a true superstar, from being worn by the likes of Elvis, Marliyn Monroe and James Dean, to being worn by the US Army during the first and second world wars and becoming the uniform of street punks and Hip Hop MCs. It naturally evolved into a statement of style, not bound by origin, class, culture or time. And still today, denim jackets have a lasting universal appeal - they are everywhere. The garment evolved over time from practical workwear into a versatile staple piece which can be worn at any place and at any time. So let’s take a closer look at the evolution of the denim jacket over the years and some key styles that it has become known for.
Type I - The Introduction of the ‘Denim Jacket’
The first reference of a denim jacket appeared in the late Nineteenth Century and not surprising at all it leads back to the same man who is largely credited with inventing blue jeans. A few years later, in the early 1900’s, Levi Strauss introduced the Levi’s 506XX jacket as a companion to the ‘waist overalls’ that he released a few decades prior. The Levi’s 506XX, also known as the ‘Type I’ jacket, was designed and made for various types of manual labour, with durability and functionality as the most important characteristics. The Levi's Type I had a simple design, with one front pocket and a ‘cinch buckle’ at the lower center of the back of the jacket. The jacket was made of a 9oz. unsanforized denim fabric, and it was strengthened with copper rivets on the ‘weak’ points and areas of strain. After the introduction of the 506XX, other brands started to work on their own adaptations, a process which is still trending even today. In 1933, Lee launched the ‘Storm Rider’ jacket which became one of their most iconic pieces, and a few years later, in 1948, Wrangler made its debut with the introduction of their Model 11MJ denim jacket. The design of the Type I denim jacket set the standard for all denim jackets that followed in the decades that followed and even today it still acts as a great inspiration for denim design teams.
Type II and type III - A ‘Modern’ Interpretation
It was about fifty years after the world-changing introduction of the Type I denim jacket, when Levi’s released the updated ‘Type II’ jacket in 1953. The most significant changes relative to the first design were the two chest pockets and the loss of the cinch buckle on the back, which was replaced with two waist adjusters on the hips. Instead of the rivets, stress points were also strengthened with bar tacks, performing the same duty. The Type II jacket retained the pleats on either side of the placket and came in a similarly boxy fit which was suitable for workers and cowboys alike. Only a few years later in 1960, Levi’s introduced the ‘Type III’ denim jacket, which also became known as the quintessential ‘Trucker Jacket’. In contrast to the relatively small update from Type I to Type II, the Type III jacket was a complete remake compared to its predecessors and was distinguished by a more tailored fit. With set-in chest pockets that featured pointed pocket flaps, the Type III got rid of the pleated front design and adopted a much more modern silhouette. Moving away from its workwear origins, the refined jacket would become a cornerstone of the modern wardrobe.
Type IV - Today’s Interpretations of a Classic
The Type I, Type II and Type III denim jackets are more than just three different silhouettes. Together these designs form the history of the denim jacket, a garment which is undoubtedly a permanent fixture in our wardrobe. They all reflect a different era, its milestones, trends and technical developments. Together these three designs are the inspiration for every denim designer. An inspiration which comes with the ultimate - almost impossible - challenge of coming up with the next iteration. Within the current denim landscape, there are two different schools of thought clearly visible. On one hand we see brands who are trying to reinvent or to remake the classic denim jacket. By developing new silhouettes or by taking patterns from other subcultures in fashion, these brands bring a fresh perspective from within the denim garment industry. On the other hand, there are brands who are trying to honor the heritage of the denim jacket, trying to stay as close to the ‘original’ designs as possible. However, it is not uncommon that they have slight alterations, like added length or hand pockets, or by including their own signature details, like custom-made hardware or arcuates. These brands are adding their own accents to classic designs and are grounding the heritage of denim firmly in our modern industry. There is no right or wrong approach and arguably both schools of thought are keeping our industry in a perfect balance. One choice which will determine the design of the denim jacket in 2021, without even thinking about the pattern, is the fabric. Using a rinsed dark blue denim fabric will obviously give a completely different appearance than a jacket made from a light washed blue denim fabric. For the brands and designers amongst us, being a denim mill and a fabric consultant, Calik Denim can bring the perfect denim fabric to the table for your next collection and denim jacket design. For example, if you’re looking to add a new vintage-inspired denim jacket to the next collection, make sure that you consider Calik’s Denovated denim fabric, which is the perfect combination of an authentic look with the advantages of today's technologies. The Type I, Type II and Type III denim jackets are three timeless icons which have become mainstays within the changeable denim landscape. Whether you are a designer, a collector or just interested in casual fashion, these three classic denim jackets can’t be overlooked and are still guaranteed to be a staple in upcoming collections for many years to come.