The History of Levi Strauss Jeans
The history of jeans or denims goes as far back as the sixteenth century Europe when sailors in Genoa worn a material that will eventually becomes the material used in jeans. But it was the California Gold Rush of 1849 that started the evolution of pants in American that will one day become blue jeans. Blue Jeans was the result of that change that was started by a fabric importer in San Francisco, California when he observed how bad the pants on some of the gold diggers looked after a hard days work looking for gold. He realized these pant simply could not hold up to the grueling work of the miners. Almost every miner returned from the mines with ripped and tattered pants. They needed to be made of stronger and tougher fabric. The fabric importer, Levi Strauss, saw an opportunity here.
The Forty-niners started it "we need better pants"
Levi Strauss first moved from Germany to New York City in 1847 with his family to start a dry-goods business there. Later he moved to San Francisco in 1853 to establish his own dry-goods business named “Levi Strauss and Company”. While there he became a very successful businessman and a well-known philanthropist. The main product Levi sold was a tough canvas used for tents and wagon covers. He also sold mining supplies such as shovels and picks since the California gold rush was in full swing in 1853. Every one was heading west to mine for gold with the hope of becoming rich. Levi got into the pants business when a prospector came into his store and asked him what are you selling. He got into the pants business when a prospector came into his store and asked him what are you selling? Levi replied, “ I sell tough canvas for tents and for wagon covers”. The prospector said, “You should have brought pants”. The miner was basically saying he could not find a pair of pants tough enough to last.? Levi replied "I sell tough canvas for tents and for wagon covers”. The prospector said, “You should have brought pants”. The miner was basically saying he could not find a pair of pants tough enough to last.
From Tents To Pants
After hearing that, Levi decided to make pants out of the tough canvas he was selling. He made the canvas into a waist overall. The miners like them, but there was a chafing problem while wearing them because the material was too rough. Levi eventually tried another material called twilled cotton cloth which was much more comfortable but still tough. The material was later called “denim” and the pant was originally made in two colors, indigo blue and brown cotton (duck). The brown cotton denim was eventually dropped because the material was not quite as comfortable and soft like the indigo blue denim. The Levi denims were tough but there was still one problem; the pockets rip too easy.
Rivets Saved The Day
One of Levi’s most popular customers was a tailor name Jacob Davis. Jacob originally emigrated from Latvia to San Francisco in 1854, later moved to Canada in 1858 and lived there for nine years. Before moving to Canada he operated tailor shops in New York City and in Augusta, Georgia until returning to San Francisco in 1856. Finally in 1868 he settled in Reno, Nevada and opened a shop fabricating tents and wagon covers from bolts of canvas he brought from Levi. Again, the problem with ripped pockets came up, but this time in Reno. Jacob came up with the idea of using rivets to strengthen the corners of pockets on pants since he knew how well rivets held the ends of tents and wagon covers.
Soon other tailors in the area began using his idea to sew rivets to pant pockets to strengthen them. Jacob contacted Levi by letter indicating he needed his help to patent his idea and that he was willing to share the patent rights once they were granted. The U.S. Patent Office issued the patent on May 20, 1873 to Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss & Company for “Fastening Pockets and Openings”. After receiving the patent, Jacob moved to San Francisco and delivered his first pairs of pants to Levi on June 2, 1873 and due to high demands for the denims Levi opened a manufacturing facility there and made Jacob the supervisor. In 1890, after the patent expired, Levi began making a cheaper “Double XX” brand of denim to compete with the flood of denims on market made by other companies.
Levi died on September 27, 1902 and Jacob died in 1908 after spending his whole career with the company. After his father’s death, Simon Davis took over the job of running the company. He is credited for changing the company from a regional one to a national organization.
A Few Facts About the Company
The official birthday of “Blue Jean” is May 20, 1873. This is the date Levi and Jacob received U.S. Patent No. 139,121 for “Fastening Pockets and Openings”. The name “Levi’s” was a name started by the public. When someone made a reference to the pant they were always called “Levi’s” and as a result Levi obtained registered trademark for the name with a two-horse brand design on it in 1886. Levi wanted to include Jacob’s name in the trademark but he refused to allow it. Another part of the Levi trademark is the red tab attached to the left rear pocket. This was created in 1936 as a means of identifying Levi’s jeans at a distance. All these registered trademarks that are still in use today.
A Brief Evolution of the Blue Jeans
During the 1920s the denims were often called waist overalls and were the most popular work pants at the time. By the 1950s Levi’s jeans started selling nationally. Everybody was wearing jeans. The name “jeans” did not come into official use until the 1960s. In the 60s and 70s the jeans were embraced by the “Hippies”, and came in many styles. The styles were called by names such as hip-huggers, bell-bottoms, baggies and elephant ears. The term “designers jeans” became the name in the 80s when designers like Sergio, Valente, Jordaches and Calvin Klein created slimmer, tight, butt hugging jeans. I remembered everyone was wearing jeans during the 80s and by the 1990s jeans began to loose it designer look and went back to the basic look. However, fashion designers are now coating the basic look of jeans with a resin and are calling them "coated denim." Despite these changes they are still popular among both the young and old.
© 2010 Melvin Porter
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