Jeans have always been a cultural barometer: the free-flowing bell-bottoms of the ’60s, the ironed-on butt-huggers of the days of disco, the despondent denim that Kurt Cobain and his fellow unwashed icons turned into a grunge-era staple. A couple of years ago, the luxury denim-du-jour spoke volumes about our obsession with status symbols: if Jennifer Aniston has $450 Rick Owens jeans, why shouldn’t I? (The woman earned $1 million per episode—do we really need to answer that question?) Just when it seemed there was no limit to our appetite for excess, the recession hit. Yorkville shopaholics were checking price tags, sweet-16 spendthrifts stopped bringing mommy’s credit card to Aritzia, and dozens of cubby-size Queen Street boutiques plastered their windows with fire-sale signs. At the same time, classic brands (Converse, Timex and, yes, Levi’s) were making a comeback, and a woman who wears J. Crew was settling in at the White House. If you listened closely, you could almost hear the denim bubble burst. Nowadays, dropping hundreds of dollars for casual pants sounds, well, as ridiculous as it always did. The current must-have labels—like the appropriately named Swedish line Cheap Monday—are often priced in the lowly double digits. And if you need further proof that the era of democratic denim is upon us: Levi’s recently sued Dolce & Gabbana for ripping off its signature pocket-stitching design. The toast of Milan seeking inspiration in the everyman brand? It’s about time.