THE ORIGIN OF HELMUT LANG PAINTER JEANS
Helmut Lang first released the Painter Jean in 1997 for his Spring Summer 1998 menswear collection. A classic cut five-pocket denim jean, it takes inspiration from the rigid Levis 501xx.
Jeans themselves originated as a blue-collar workwear garment in 19th Century America. In the 20th century, they were appropriated by the middle class, becoming the uniform of college students and academics.
Numerous subcultures such as the Skin-Heads, Ivy Leaguers, Black Ivy’s, and many more have claimed classic tailored cut Jeans as regalia. Helmut Lang's Painted Jeans adopt the signified associations of hard work and ruggedness linked to the garment's original purpose as a workwear staple within a different context: art and fashion. Their sleek style is characteristic of the Austrian creative's minimalist approach to avante-garden design, reconstructing an American classic and reworking its meaning through playful destruction. Lang sells the artist's studio look with a sense of refinement and purity.
HELMUT LANG PAINTER JEANS OVER TIME
The popularity of the Helmut Lang Painter Denim remains high today, with a cult following and continued updates to the silhouette featuring throughout the late 1990s and 2000s.
The most classic are the Indigo denim and white paint colourway, as well as the rarer military green paint variation of 1999. Spring 2003 saw classic cut white denim canvassed with floral artwork, far from Helmut Lang's typical brand of minimalism. In 2005, a more heavily distressed rendition of the Painter Jeans can be seen in a dirtied cream colour.
HOW THE PAINTER JEANS INFLUENCED MAINSTREAM FASHION
You don't have to look far to see the influence of Helmut Lang's Jeans. Many people Fear of God, Dsquared, and Diesel all sell denim with Lang's characteristic paint splatter, though with far less sophistication. High-street fast fashion brands pump out paint-splattered clothing for an attenuated and superficial take on the icon for mainstream consumption.
Established fashion houses, whether inspired directly by Helmut Lang or otherwise, have developed Painter Jeans for their own collections over the years. Dior Homme, Junya Watanabe and Heliot Emil are just a few names. Painted denim is undeniably commonplace in fashion.
THE ENDURING POPULARITY OF HELMUT LANG PAINTER JEANS
In 1999, Alexander McQueen was pictured posing in his personal pair of Helmut Lang Painter Jeans, a mark of the garments worth, being worn by such a coveted designer. Styled in a sleek sleeveless top with a Nokia protruding languidly from his pocket, Mqueen shows us the Painter Jean in a casual everyday ensemble.
The Cover of the 2001 album ‘Get Ready’ by New Order featured Nicolette Krebitz in pair of Indigo Painter Jeans, with the inside covers depicting the actress slipping into the classics in various poses. The Jean's popularity crosses binaries with their androgynous styling, they give off what some may coin the ‘boyfriend’ aesthetic, much like a pair of Mens Levis might when worn by the opposite sex, though Helmut Langs Painter Jeans are much more luxurious.
2017 saw the Helmut Lang ‘Re-edition’ collection, in which a remake of the original Spring 98’ Painter Jeans features as a key component. Today the style is as popular as ever.