Trending / November 2020

The Legacy of SilverTab™ Baggy Jeans

SilverTab® jeans ruled the ’90s with their baggy fit and super wide leg. In honor of our limited edition SilverTab capsule on Levi’s® SecondHand, we chatted with Sam Trotman, a denim-industry veteran, writer, and trend forecaster. Sam first got into denim as a teenager in England, sifting through vintage finds in flea markets every weekend. Since then, he’s traveled around the world to connect with emerging brands and established icons. Follow along as he dives deep into the origins of SilverTab and its lasting influence. 

Let’s set the scene. What was denim like in the ’90s?

Since the rebel youth of the ’50s, jeans have been a symbol of the anti-conformity zeitgeist, and the ’90s were no different. Underground music scenes like grunge were on the rise, hip-hop was becoming mainstream, and skateboarding was at an all-time high. These trends led to baggy denim becoming the signature style of the ’90s. Think back to the era and you might imagine Biggie rocking his slouchy jeans with Timbs or maybe skateboarder Harold Hunter wearing 501® jeans that are three sizes too big for him in the movie Kids. In general, ’90s denim had a textured salt-and-pepper look to it, and was made in a lighter blue color. Jeans looked even better as they aged and got trashed.

SilverTab is known as the unofficial uniform for ’90s counterculture. Why was it so popular with GenX?

Although Levi’s® SilverTab arrived in the late ’80s, the line didn’t really take off until the 

’90s. The collection was defined by its loose and baggy fits. What’s interesting is that at the time, not a lot of mainstream brands were offering that look. There were some skate brands like Blind, Alien Workshop and Droors who catered to skaters with wide-cut styles, and emerging Black-owned streetwear brands like Fubu were popular with the hip-hop community. But no one captured the mainstream audience like Levi’s®. SilverTab had an amazing brand identity. I love the old graphic tees with the globe motif and the back patches with SilveTab branding over the Two Horse® logo. Even the actual silver tab made it feel completely unique and new for the ’90s generation, just as the Orange Tab had done in the late ’60s for hippies. If you want to get a feel for the vibe at the time I recommend checking out ’90s Levi’s® commercials like Keep it Loose and What’s Big.

Is the baggy style popularized by SilverTab only for denim diehards or do you see the trend coming back?

I’ve recently seen a lot of skaters in London wearing vintage SilverTab styles. I was chatting with one of the staff members in Supreme not long ago as I saw he was wearing a pair of SilverTab jeans. He said it’s become increasingly hard to pick them up online as more people are buying them. One of my friends owns a vintage shop called 194 Local in East London, where he stocks vintage SilverTab jeans. I think what’s made them so popular is that there are no brands that are making baggy fits like that anymore. The skinny jean has been such a dominant trend over the past decade, and few brands have been making wide fits. People are buying vintage to get that OG ’90s fit and authentic character that you just don’t get in new jeans today.

How does denim play a role in today’s culture?

For me, denim remains at the forefront of our current zeitgeist because it’s a canvas for self expression. Jeans are defined by the people who wear them. If you look on Instagram, you can find so many young creatives customizing vintage denim in new and creative ways. What’s dope about these young creatives is their conscious approach to design. A lot of them are being resourceful and working off vintage Levi’s® jeans. Not only does this offer them an authentic look, but by using vintage jeans (instead of creating new garments and using natural resources) it also reduces their environmental impact.

You’ve said that the best thing we can do to be more sustainable is to buy secondhand clothing. Tell us more about why this is so important.

Making new clothes requires a lot of materials, energy and water. This has a huge impact on the environment, from toxic chemicals in dyes to plastic fibers that shed into water streams every time you run your washing machine. Often when people throw away their clothes or companies overproduce, clothing just ends up in landfills where it takes years to biodegrade (if at all). 

Secondhand clothing extends the lifetime of a garment. The resale market is booming right now. Buying secondhand is an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint and take part in the circular economy. The global pandemic has shifted our buying habits. Our purchases have become more deliberate, out of both economic necessity and a shift in values. The kind of instant gratification represented by so much of fast fashion increasingly seems simply wasteful. Understanding what you have that has lasted (and why it has lasted) will help you make better decisions in the future.

Photo Credit: Oliver Hooson

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