Denim Icon: James Dean In “Rebel Without A Cause”

A Movie For 50s Young People

Speaking of denim icons, we cannot fail to mention James Dean and his distinctive style in the film that made him famous, “Rebel without a cause”.

The famous 1955 film tells the story of three young guys with different but very similar family situations who find themselves united in tragic circumstances. All three live a common sense of social and family maladjustment that lead them to live dangerous experiences in the name of rebellion. But rebellion from what? The rebel behaviors of the three young protagonists represent a phase in life that everyone must face sooner or later: the transition to adulthood. Nothing to do with the rebel nonconformity of the years from 1968 onwards. The gap between these two generations was in fact enormous: they did not share values, as well as the style of clothing, idols and music. Shaft Jeans was born in these years and as we told in “Shaft Jeans: our story and manifesto” post, denim and trousers have been considered a form of rebellion and nonconformity. Until today the company maintains this revolutionary spirit that has distinguished it over the years.

Denim icon
“Copyright 1955 Warner Bros Pictures Distributing Corporation” – Scan via Heritage Auctions.

James Dean Icon Of Denim And Style

Not considering the story told in the film, why do we consider James Dean an icon of denim and style? In 1955, when “Rebel without a cause” became an iconic film for young people, the style of Jim Stark, the character played by James Dean, was disruptive. The rebel youth demonstrated how cool it is wearing a simple pair of jeans with a white T-shirt, leather jacket and pair of boots. A simple and timeless style. A rebel style.


James Dean, together with Marlon Brando, changed the way teenagers perceived beauty in fashion. Their style, in which the classic slim jeans could not be missing, introduced a new dress code in the 1950s that was defined in the following decades. An everyday but timeless outfit.

Even today James Dean’s outfit in “Rebel without a cause” is an icon for boys and girls with a rebellious spirit. Even Lana Del Rey considers James Dean a sexual idol for a girl. Do you remember her song “Blue Jeans”? “Blue jeans, white shirt. Walked into the room you know you made my eyes burn. It was like, James Dean, for sure”.

And you? Do you love the blue jeans – white t-shirt style?


Author: Valentina Manzoni

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