Sturdy, comfortable and endlessly changeable - it's no wonder that jeans have been a staple of British fashion for decades and show no sign of fading out.
Whether they look like skinny black drainpipes, billowing blue flares or simple standard-cut trousers, jeans are so in demand that according to market analysis company Mintel, three pairs of jeans will be sold every second of every day this year, with 86 million due to be sold by the end of the year in the UK alone.
In fact, sales in the UK are set to hit £1.5 billion by end of 2007, an increase of over 40 percent in the last five years, reaching £2.1 billion by 2012.
Of course, it's not just the jeans manufacturers that are benefiting from this perennial favourite - label companies are too, including branding experts Nilorn UK, part of the Nilorn Worldwide group, which produces fifteen million labels of various types and sizes each day and delivers anywhere in the world within 48 hours.
Branding: the key to successful jeans
“Jeans are the ultimate fashion success story,” said Chris Wildman, brand sales manager at Nilorn UK. “Today we don't just wear jeans while lounging in front of the TV - we are also happy to wear them for a night out on the town or for a day at the office. We even see celebrities wearing them down the red carpet."
This popularity works out well for companies that supply labels to the denim industry, thanks to the complex design of many jeans: "There isn’t just one label on a pair of jeans," Chris explained. "Obviously you get the main labels - inside the jeans, the leather tag, hang tag and back pocket flasher - but there are often others.
"You have stitching on back pockets, a flag/tab - that's the small but important signature label normally sewn to the side of the back pocket - and a fly label, a woven label sewn to the fly of the jeans.”
Creating an image for the brand
In fact, no matter how stylish a pair of jeans may be, it's the labels and hang tags do the talking in-store, serving as the first connection between consumers and the product, capturing their attentions and strengthening the brand in their minds.
Additionally, the label communicates the message that the manufacturer wants to get across - an expensive label will draw the eye of those looking for quality, whereas an eccentric label will appeal those with quirkier tastes.
Chris said: “There is fierce competition out there, and jean designers put as much effort into designing a clothing label as they do into designing a logo.
"They now pay close attention to the labels, studying effective placement and focusing on designs with more impact, as well as placing emphasis on quality and fade-washing conditions."
A long and storied history
Not that this is a new practice - in fact, as long ago as 1886, Levis introduced a leather label for its jeans that depicted the jeans being pulled between two horses, representing the product's strength and durability. But even this was not the first jeans-related label.
Chris explained: “Jeans owe everything to labels, and this has been true right from the start - it has always been extremely important in this industry for the brand name to be recognised at a glance.
"Levis are instantly recognised by the distinctive red tag on the left rear pocket which, as it happens, was one of the first woven labels to be produced and used in this way, back in 1936."
The importance of labels on jeans continues to this day, with everything from budget supermarket options like George to the Victoria Beckham range of designer jeans featuring its own unique branding.
Innovation in labels
In fact, modern labels are now expanding from the traditional leather look to stand out from the crowd. Chris says that over the years, Nilorn has seen an increase in more exciting raw materials being requested, from rubber and moulded plastics.
He added: “Brands are becoming much more discerning about the labels and opting to choose materials or colours that make their labels more appealing. Plastics and rubber are particularly common on jeans that are targeted at the younger, funkier end of the market.”
The fact that jeans are still popular in "younger, funkier" markets after first hitting that area in the 1950s is a testament to the flexibility of their design. In fact, it's so flexible that what jeans will look like in the future is impossible to tell.
But no matter how they look 10, 20 or 30 years from now, one thing is for sure: they'll still be in high demand, and they'll always have those stylish labels.