Historical Spotlight: Jeans!

8 11 2011

If you look in your closet, most of your pants are blue aren’t they? That’s because blue-jeans are the most popular type of pants. So do you know the history of these trendy trousers?

As American as we think jeans are, the history of blue jeans actually goes back to 16th Century Europe. The story goes that “jean” derives from the word Genoa. It refers to the material that sailors from Genoa used in their pants. On the other hand, the origin of the term “denim” can be traced to late 16th century France where a fabric known as “serge de Nimes” (Twill from Nimes) was very popular. Both fabrics grew in popularity, but denim was the stronger and more expensive of the two.

By the late 19th century, weavers in America were making fabric in the same fashion as the European denim, but using the locally produced cotton fibers. The material had a reputation for being very strong and not wearing out quickly, in spite of many washes. That’s why you can get away with wearing jeans for days on end!

The modern history of blue jeans starts with Levi Strauss. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? That’s because you can still buy Levi jeans today! Levi moved to California in 1853 during the Gold Rush. He followed his family business , and opened a dry goods store where he sold fabric. His denim fabric became very popular in the region, where prospectors needed strong material to last while gold mining all day.

A tailor named Jacob Davis bought Levi’s fabric and started making men’s work pants with metal points of strain for greater strength. Those rivets of metal along your jeans may seem small but they are what make them durable and strong. Without rivets, the pockets would rip. Levi and Jacob Davis went into business together and jeans have been unstoppable since.

We’ve gotten even more creative with manufacturing jeans now, some companies have even started making them out of recycled plastic bottles!

So jeans can be traced back to 16th century Frenchmen, Italian sailors, and Californian gold-rushers! Now you know that your baggy-jeans , hip-huggers, bell-bottoms, pre-washed, and distressed jeans, they’re all a part of history!

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