Do you know where the word ‘dude’ comes from? And what it means? A dude is a pretend cowboy, a brave urbanite who pays to stay on a ranch and plays cowboy: he rides horses, wrangles cows, wears boots and a denim getup and humps in the hay. Like that movie City Slickers, maybe? Dude ranches had become very popular in the 1930s. But not only for men. Women vacationed too, and were called ‘dudines’. They lasso’d just as mightily as their male companions and eventually even revolutionized fashion when Levi Strauss & Co made the very first pair of jeans for Western women in 1934. Until then the girls had to borrow pants from the boys – quelle horreur! The Lady Levi’s jeans, also called the Lot 701, was made of a pre-shrunk type of denim, had a feminine fit and a front button fly, which was outrageous at the time. But soon Vogue would give the jeans its stamp of approval, and the rest is history. (Now we got boys wearing our jeans!)
And so the 701 turned eighty this year. And Levi’s celebrated. They invited a group of international editors to the Rancho de los Caballeros in Wickenburg, a rancher’s hot spot fifty miles North of Phoenix, in the High Sonoran Desert of Arizona. That was back in May, the same week I was in Kazakhstan. In fact I was only in Phoenix for two days, before the real fun started and the fashion dudines got to ride on tractors, sing folksy tunes by the camp fire and learned how to line dance. I don’t have any pictures to commemorate their farming exploits – Jean Herman Bishop does! – but as a personal tribute, I borrowed some of Levi’s vintage and fall fashions and trekked around town with a photographer.
Photos by Diggy Lloyd.