Unique in appearance, soft to the touch, and a few washes away from being completely distressed, stonewashed garments were all the rage in the 1980s. It’s likely you have some in the closet that you may use quite often, as the Stonewash look is just as on-trend today as it was back then.
What is stone washing?
Stone-washing is a textile manufacturing process that ages a newly manufactured fabric, giving it a worn-in appearance. It also helps soften stiff and rigid cloth such as canvas and denim, to name a few. This look is achieved by using abrasive stones to rough up the fabric. The process involves washing the materials in a rotating drum or industrial clothes washer filled with large stones and, in the case of denim, at least, chemicals. The garments are repeatedly beaten by the rotating cylinder, resulting in a casual and relaxed worn-in look.
Where did it originate from?
No one really knows who invented stone washing. There are multiple claims, but no definitive proof. Levi Strauss & Co., the holding company of world-famous Levi’s jeans, insists that one of their employees devised the technique in the 1950s. Others say that inventor Claude Blanklet was responsible. Others say that jeans company Edwin did it first. Another plausible theory is that the French stylists Marithé and François Girbaud discovered it.
What are its distinct features?
Stonewashed garments are lighter, softer, and more aged-looking than regular fabrics. They offer a higher level of comfort as opposed to tougher fabrics such as regular denim. Because they were purposely made to look old and faded via the stone washing process, they won’t fade drastically over time. They may also fit looser than usual given the fabric treatment.
When did it become popular?
This trend first became popular in the 1980s. Punk rock musicians would spatter bleach on their denim garments to achieve a faded look similar to camouflage. The public quickly caught on, dipping their clothes into diluted bleach and even embellishing using studs, rhinestones, and embroidery.
In 1988, tennis star Andre Agassi broke the rules by wearing a pair of stonewashed shorts at the ATP Lipton Tennis Championship. Icons Sonny and Cher wore embellished stonewashed denim for their All I Ever Need is You album art. In addition, the television program Saved by the Bell also showcased such fashion through its cast, including a wide range of stonewashed garments.
Celebrities who have hopped on this trend
Though stonewash declined in popularity for a time, it regained prominence in the 90s and 2000s. Plenty of fashionable big-name celebrities of today are fans of the trend. Singer Miley Cyrus wore a patchwork denim jacket with her stonewashed denim shorts. Katy Perry channeled the 80s in a studded denim jacket and jeans coupled with her short ‘do. Hailey Bieber took the trend up a notch, going for acid denim on acid denim. Kendall Jenner chose to go the minimalist route, pairing her distressed jeans with a white tank.
Fashion designers and labels who embraced the stonewashed fabric
Jordache was the go-to brand for stonewashed and acid-washed denim in the 80s. In 2019, it hopped right back on the trend train with a collection of distressed denim pieces. Dsquared2 featured stonewashed garments in 2017, pairing capris with broad-shouldered coats. Gucci did so similarly in the same year, sending models down the runway in stonewashed jeans and logo tees. Proenza Schouler dressed it up in 2019 via an elegant high-necked gown with a drop waist made entirely out of stonewashed fabric.
It’s safe to say that a lot of people in the industry (and fashion fans alike) are drawn to the relaxed, worn-in vibe of the stonewashed fabric. It’s certainly a classic that will be adored and worn by its fans for years to come.