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The Historical Background of Blue Jeans

Updated on February 5, 2015

The uniqueness of this extremely popular dress item is solely due to the cloth of which it is made of ---- the dark or sky-blue fabric popularly known as denim. Since very old days i.e; around the 17th century, there was a common practice among the English sailors of wearing a coarse cloth as work pants that was believed to have been originated in the French town named Nime. For this reason it was named: Serge de Nime, meaning a strong fabric of Nime. Gradually, the word was reduced to Denim, a single word.

In the middle of the 17th century, there came to the U. S. an emigrant from Bavaria named Levi Strauss with his brother and settled in the city of New York. In 1853, Strauss migrated to the west coast and established his own dry goods industry by the name of Levi Strauss & Co. A majority of Levi's customers were either cowboys or laborers in gold mines who needed some rough cloth for their work pants. Although canvass was mostly being used for this purpose; it had a defect that it soon got hot due to the friction with the body of its wearer and thus troubled him very much. Levi, after thinking considerably over the problem, at last, hit upon its solution. It was the cloth that was mentioned in the proceeding lines--- the denim.

Consequently, dress designers from far and wide came to him buy the fabric from the wholesale store of Levi Strauss & Co. One of Levi's permanent clients was Jacob Davis, a tailor migrating from Latvia who regularly used to buy bolts of cloths from his store in bulk. He made from it tents and cloths for laborers. Among Jacob's customers there was a peculiar person who most often ripped his trousers on his hip pockets. Jacob reached upon a unique idea. He stuck metal rivets to those points on the pockets of his pants that suffered most of the strain.

The device applied by Jacob worked well. His riveted trousers began to sell like hot cakes. Jacob felt worried about his invention that it might be imitated by some other manufacturer. He, therefore, thought of getting his invention patented; nonetheless, he lacked the $ 68 necessary for this task. He decided to ask Levi to share with so that they hold the patent together. Being a very cunning businessman, Levi agreed to his offer and both applied for the patent. On May 20th, 1873, the new waist overalls, as they were called earlier, designed by Jacob Davis, were patented by the support of Levi Strauss. The company had the sole right of manufacturing and selling the overalls for nearly twenty years until 1893. After their exclusive rights over the item abolished, a number of firms awaiting that day, started making the pants innovated by Levi Strauss & Co. It will be amazing for many readers that a pair of Levi's overalls was sold for only 1.25 dollars around 1895.

During 1930s, Hollywood films showing cowboys wearing denim drew the attention of a lot of people to the apparel. In the 1940s, American soldiers spread its popularity abroad when they put them on wherever they went off duty. By the close of the 40s, several garments manufacturers like Wrangler and Lee started competition with Levi in the international market.

During the 1950s, blue jeans became a symbol of teenagers at high schools rebellious against their adults. In the decade following, young baby boomers adopted them as their sole uniform.It was in the 1960s that the item of cloth formerly known by the words waist overalls was termed jeans by this baby boom generation of the decade. The former work pants gradually began to be regarded sexy as well as a fashion wear in 1970s. Several new styles evolved; such as , embroidered jeans, painted jeans etc. In 1980s, with the coming of the Kelvin Klein ad slogan, the photograph of the most reputed model and actress of the decade---Brook shield could be seen in every living room, purring: nothing can come between me and my Kelvins.

The word jeans is probably derived from the name of the historical city-state of Italy, Genoa, where sailors in the 17th century used to wear pants made from a tough cloth that were named at first Genoas in England by the English speakers. Then it was converted to its present form; i. e. jeans in the United States. A natural question arises in mind; that is , why are jeans always available in blue color? The most popular answer to this question is: because blue is the only color that has the capability to hide stains of nearly every kind. There were at first used two kinds of denim: (1) blue and (2) brown cotton duck. The denim falling under the second category was soon discarded while the blue one kept on being used up-till now.


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