The Origin of Jeans
In 1850, a man named Levi Strauss emigrated from Bavaria to San Francisco to take advantage of the gold rush. A forward thinker, he decided to carry with him large rolls of material with the intention of making tents and vehicle covers in the hope that there would be the demand to make it worth his while. One afternoon, a miner with whom Strauss had become friendly suggested that he started doing a sideline in workwear. The miner explained that he was fed up of wearing trousers that wore out so quickly due to the physical intensity of his job. Accordingly, Strauss designed the first jeans. They soon became popular in factories and down mines.
Shortly after, a design feature was introduced that remains on all the jeans we wear today – copper studs. There were attached to the stress points around pockets for further enforcement. The story goes that these copper rivets came about because of a young fellow who had a penchant for collecting rock samples, storing them in his pockets when out pursuing his interest. To help his jeans cope with the strain his precious rocks placed on them, he recruited a blacksmith to rivet his trousers. In the 1870s blue jeans complete with the rivets were patented. They remained popular for many years as sturdy work trousers.
The word “jeans” comes from the French phrase bleu de Gênes, literally the blue of Genoa. Jeans fabric, or denim, originated in the French town of Nîmes, from which ‘denim’ (de Nîmes) gets its name.
Soon after the war they began to be worn by the general public as leisure wear. Jeans became even more popular when the dark blue material was tempered by the stone-washing technique. Films, especially Westerns, helped the jeans industry grow and grow. In the late 1980s, an infamous Levis advert featuring a man removing his jeans and washing them in a Laundromat had such an explosive impact on the popularity of jeans that the company had to temporarily pull the plug on the ad as production levels couldn’t keep up with demand.
These days, jeans are more popular than ever, with hundreds of brands offering an infinite variety of pre-torn, pre-stained and seemingly pre-ruined pairs available in clothes shops everywhere.