The irony is that James Dean was considered anything but stylish by many of his Hollywood peers of the day. He turned heads and created a legend, not by dressing up– but by dressing down. Established style icon Humphrey Bogart looked down his nose at Dean, considering him a punk and a slob. On Jimmy’s passing, Bogart had this to say– “Dean died at just the right time. He left behind a legend. If he’d lived, he’d never have been able to live up to the publicity.” Bogart was right in that Dean was difficult, and definitely not a natty dresser– but his impact on style can never be diminished.
James Dean cemented the rebel uniform for his generation of youth, and for many to come, through his very personal portrayal of Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause. Immortalized onscreen in Technicolor wearing the now iconic red jacket, white tee, Lee 101 Jeans, and engineer boots, Dean seemed to hold the world breathless, and became the first actor to speak for the silent anguished teen– he gave them a voice they had been lacking. Before James Dean, onscreen you were either a boy or a man. Dean’s influence on countless great actors that followed him created some incredible performances, like Martin Sheen in Badlands, who owes Jimmy everything he knows about acting.
“Jimmy Dean and Elvis were the spokesmen for an entire generation. When I was in acting school in New York, years ago, there was a saying that if Marlon Brando changed the way people acted, then James Dean changed the way people lived. He was the greatest actor who ever lived. He was simply a genius.” – Martin Sheen
James Dean on the set of George Steven’s epic 1956 masterpiece, Giant. It was Jimmy’s last film, and was released after his tragic death behind the wheel of the infamous “Little Bastard’” Porsche Spyder. Jimmy was on his way with mechanic Rolf Wütherich to Salinas to pursue his other passion– racing cars. James Dean received two Academy Award nominations for Best Actor posthumously, the only person to this day to ever do so– in 1955 for East of Eden, and again in 1956 for Giant. – image via Hulton archive
In 2006, the original Lee 101z Rider jeans worn by James Dean (pictured above) were auctioned off for $35,850. Lee Japan has introduced a replica of these same 101Z Rider jeans worn by James dean in Giant for the Lee Archives in 13,25oz narrow loom, Sanforized indigo cast denim with its characteristic one-side selvedge.
James Dean as the surly and misunderstood Jett Rink in George Steven’s epic masterpiece, “Giant.”