Jean: History of Denim Jeans

3:30 PM Contributed by JW


In fashion history, jeans and denim history continues to baffle. No one truly knows the perfect answer to where jeans began. As so often happens fashions often emerge together in various parts of the world and are the result of the sudden availability of a new fabric, cloth, dye or technique.

But we do know that the phrase denim jeans is thought to derive from several sources. The majority of source books suggest that denim derives from the English translation of the South of France French phrase 'serge de Nîmes'. Denim fashion history is thus associated with Serge de Nimes.

Levi Staruss Jeans

Jeans history would be nothing without Levi Strauss. Levi Strauss is credited with inventing jeans. Levi Strauss emigrated with his family to New York in 1847. His family sold dry goods such as canvas tenting and Manchester drapery goods. He moved to San Francisco in the early 1850s because he thought the same dry goods business would be brisk because of the California gold rush.

About 20 years later a solvent Levi Strauss and a Nevada tailor joined forces to patent an idea the tailor had for putting rivets on stress points of workman's waist high overalls commonly known as jeans. Levi Strauss chose to use the stronger denim fabric and cotton duck, putting his own name on the product. Later the duck fabric was dropped as consumers found denim more comfortable, particularly after washing creating the faded bloom on the indigo blue dyeing that we all love.

Eventually in the 1950s people asked for denim jeans or just as often - Levi's jeans rather than waist overalls. Other manufacturers began to produce jeans and other brand names such as Lee Coopers and Wranglers also became famous. Each brand is renowned for having a particular cut.

The most famous jeans are still probably those produced by Levi as Levi 501s. Pre shrunk jeans had been introduced in the 1960s. 501s traditional button fly jeans designed in the Victorian era need to be shrunk to fit. They were a huge hit again in the 1980s when reintroduced to a new generation.



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