Jeans: A History

Some gems about your favorite wardrobe choice.

We are all suckers for a good pair of jeans. This fabric has characterized hard work, durability, style, and sheer versatility this past century. Yep, you heard that right. Jeans did not boom in the hippie era, as commonly thought. Its rich history is over a hundred years old.

Etymology

Eighteenth-century Europe has the first mention of “jeans.” Travelers from Genoa, a town in Italy, brought bleu de Gênes (blue from Genoa) to the textile makers of Nimes, a village in Southern France. While making the fabric, they produced a heavier fabric giving rise to the old-fashioned version of the word denim – Serge de Nîmes (Serge from Nimes).

This barter gave rise to the production of jeans from denim and became a staple of Europe’s working class outfits. Eventually, the Gold rush of the Americas appropriated the need for the fabric.

The origin story

As we know it, the first jeans were made by Levi Strauss & Co. along with Jacob Davis, a tailor. Levi’s website narrates an interesting story of how the trademark jeans came to be.

In the late 1800s in New York, a local laborer’s wife came to Jacob Davis, a tailor, asking for a pair of pants that wouldn’t wear away with rough use. He pondered this request and came up with the idea of putting metal rivets in points where the fabric is stressed the most. These riveted pants became a runaway success. To patent this idea, Davis needed a business partner. He approached Levi Strauss & Co., from who he had purchased the denim cloth. Levi and Jacob partnered in and received a patent for these riveted pants on the 20th of May, 1873.

Levi Strauss & Co. became known for their durable jeans, and this shine hasn’t worn away even 150 years later.

Miners, farmers, warehouse workers, dock workers, construction workers- all blue-collar jobs saw employees wearing a sturdy pair of jeans to work every day. They refashioned jeans into overalls and shirts, but the practicality of its usage was always the focal point.

Evolution of Jeans

The post World War era saw imitation of Hollywood stars giving rise to jeans as a fashion statement. Westerns, swashbuckling cowboys, and Marlon Brando were recipe enough for youngsters to wear them around looking tough and rough. Lady Levi’s, introduced in 1934, saw post-war working ladies and stars like Marilyn Monroe popularising this trend.

From the 1970s to the 2000s, there could be no stopping the jeans as a hot fashion item. It has undergone various changes in color, cut, flair, fade, and length. But the versatility of this fabric has never ceased. The baggy styles of the 80s to the skinny fits of the 90s to the rips of the 2000s have made a pair of jeans a staple item in every wardrobe.

Evolution of Jeans timeline

The Seafarer Jeans

The traditional jeans, as we know it, underwent a facelift with the introduction of Seafarer Jeans. This vintage fashion brand was started by an Italian immigrant Tony Anzalone in Brooklyn. He envisioned a softer pair of jeans that could be easily hiked up by workers working in the navy dockyard. This vision led to him supplying jeans for the U.S. Naval forces. It skyrocketed into fashion with iconic stars looking tall and appealing in these bell-bottomed jeans.

They eventually made its way into everyday life with the hippie era reimagining these with embellishments and accessories. Massimiliano Tabacchi, an Italian businessman, relaunched the brand in 2013. The Seafarer jeans have given a fresh breath of life to the stiff workman jeans. They have mixed heritage with fashion, and it has indeed emerged as a style statement for every woman.

The production of Jeans

The Industrial Revolution mechanized the production of jeans and denim material. Blue jeans are made of 100% cotton, but variations exist today, with synthetic fabrics being used.

The manufacturing process from the picking of cotton to the boxing of the jeans is detailed below:

  • Cotton from the fields is picked and processed to obtain ginned cotton.
  • This ginned cotton undergoes carding, a process where the fibers are picked apart separately, cleaned, and stretched to produce long cotton slivers.
  • These fibers are then twisted together and spun onto spools to make yarn.
  • This yarn has to be dyed the trademark indigo to make blue jeans.
  • Unlike other materials made from cotton, denim is dyed before it goes to the weaving section. The yarn is dipped repeatedly in an industrial indigo dye until the color seeps in layers. Faded jeans are a result of this type of dyeing.
  • The dyed yarn is subject to trademark processes that make the fabric stiffer and durable.
  • After this, the yarn is woven on mechanized looms. Many types of looms do the weaving processes today. The system of warp and weft is followed to create the denim fabric.
  • Warp- longer and vertical threads of blue, Weft- shorter and horizontal threads of white
  • They are woven together in a packed manner that makes the blue more dominant than the white. Close inspection of your blue jeans will reveal these white threads, which explains why the inner part of your jeans are white and not blue.
  • Denim the fabric is ready, and it is subject to a variety of treatment processes to keep the material colorfast, lint resistant, and robust.
  • Following this, we have the stitching of the jeans. Based on whichever design is chosen- cutting, hemming, and sewing is done. Through assembly-line fashion, pockets, the rivets, loops, zippers, and buttons are inserted or sewed. Embellishments and fades are introduced at this stage if required.
  • Some jeans maybe prewashed or stonewashed to obtain a specific style or appearance.
  • Following this, the jeans are pressed, folded, and labeled accordingly and stacked for shipping.

To sum up

In the words of Cameron Diaz:

“I’m like every other woman: a closet full of clothes, but nothing to wear. So I wear jeans.”

Cameron Diaz
Cameron Diaz Jeans

This comfortable fashion statement can make a casual evening out spicier and an adventurous day out more calmer. Its rich history spanning centuries is a testament to how much the small things matter. Brands, designs, and colors have littered this exciting journey. But when in doubt a simple pair of blue jeans are the way to go.

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