Ying-chen Peng
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Gendered blue
Women’s jeans in postwar Taiwan
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Blue jeans, a staple of a modern wardrobe, are simultaneously ordinary and extraordinary. Their simplicity of style is a stark contrast to their rich cultural significance. Blue jeans have gone from workwear for miners and heavy laborers to a symbol of shared economic struggle during the Great Depression and a rejection of established social values and order by postwar young rebels, to an icon of subculture of the 1960s and 1970s. In recent years, scholars have begun to extend their inquiries to analyzing blue jeans’ phenomenal world popularity, revealing a global map of blue jeans woven by the US military and political presence, and local reinterpretation of the garment’s cultural symbolism. Aa ‘glocal’ approach is taken to scrutinize blue jeans in Taiwan’s postwar visual and material culture, focusing on their influence in redefining gender roles in the 1970s and 1980s. The blue jean was labeled with ‘sexiness,’ ‘young rebels,’ and ‘Western spirit,’ due to its introduction from US soldiers in Taiwan and the sweeping popularity of American subculture among urban middle-class youngsters. Wearing jeans was a statement to identify with these values. However, what happened when a woman wore a pair of blue jeans? How did she navigate a way to mitigate the conflict between these labels and the dominating Confucian morality that advocated for women’s covered body, discreet behavior, and obedience to patriarchy? Women’s blue jeans in popular media – magazines and films –as well as school protocol and critiques are examined to illuminate the gendered history of blue jeans in modern Taiwan.

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