Blue jeans have been an icon of American culture for a long time, but they are much more than that. Nowadays, jeans are a part of daily life almost everywhere in the world, and they are worn by nearly everybody for a whole range of reasons. Jeans are a fashion choice for many, as is evident by their many modern forms that focus solely on the fashion aspect. However, jeans have a long history, and jeans have been worn for reasons more than fashion, and this is still the case nowadays.
Jeans have certainly evolved a great deal since their invention, but that evolution has mostly pertained to style and with the way we use them. The materials used to make jeans and the core principles of manufacturing, mostly have not changed. This article will explore the history of blue jeans, including how and when they originated, and the way they have evolved. Well, looking at the qualities and advantages that have made jeans so popular and prevalent in the world.
The Origin and Early Days of Blue Jeans
In the broadest sense, blue jeans are now a major industry with a market that’s worth tens of billions of dollars. It’s doubtless that the inventors of the jeans were hoping to see success, but they probably never envisioned that jeans would become one of the most popular clothing articles by far.
Those humble beginnings go all the way back to 1871 and a Latvian-American tailor by the name of Jacob W. Davis. Davis was in the business of making trousers primarily for miners, or at least he was trying to provide for that need. The harsh conditions in the mines, however, would often prove too rough for most regular pants that he produced, as was evident from the complaints he was receiving. The most problematic areas were the pockets and the button fly, which would often end up torn.
Davis then devised a novel idea when he successfully solved this problem by introducing riveted trousers, reinforced by metal rivets in all problem areas. His initial riveted trousers were made from duck cloth, also known as duck canvas, and they saw great success in the field. Because of financial hardships, Davis then teamed up with Levi Strauss & Co. to secure his patent. Levi Strauss was a German, and, just like Davis, he was an immigrant looking to make his way. At the time when he met Davis, Levi Strauss was primarily involved in dry goods, but he was also selling cotton cloth. Being a tailor, Davis was Strauss’s regular customer, buying cloth for his work.
Blue denim, the material that jeans are usually made from, was already being used for clothing. The term “blue jeans” is used for more than trousers, as long as they were made from that material. The patent was finalized in 1873, and blue jeans were ready to take the world by storm, or at least the mining world.
The Evolution of Blue Jeans
Originally intended as work pants, these riveted trousers were fairly quick to gain momentum on the market, and soon they were selling fast, making Levi Strauss & Co. substantial profits. The Gold Rush was one of the main reasons why Levi Strauss moved to the West in the first place, so his company entered the market in a big way by being one of the most prosperous suppliers of work pants for miners.
By the time when the patent expired in 1890, these jeans were incredibly popular, and Levi Strauss & Co. was the main association for that product. The Levi Strauss & Co.’s riveted trousers were already achieving that popularity by the time when the company started using blue denim on a significant level. The use of this material goes back to 18th century France, where the people of Nimes came up with the cloth and called it “serge de Nimes,” or denim for short. The cloth was named because the idea was to compete with a similar, durable material that the Italians were using, called “serge.”
Perhaps the most important way in which blue jeans have evolved is in the reasons why we wear them. Indeed, regular jeans are still durable and can withstand quite a bit of abuse, so they are still favored by construction workers, miners, and other workers, but most people don’t wear them because of that. Objectively speaking, jeans are usually not the most comfortable piece of clothing out there.
The truth is that people nowadays usually wear jeans simply because they are popular. The most significant popularization probably occurred in the course of the 1950s, thanks to movie stars such as James Dean and Marlon Brando. Movies like The Wild One (1953) and Rebel Without a Cause (1955) were particularly effective in swaying the public toward blue jeans.
From the 1950s and onward, the sky was the limit for blue jeans. They would eventually be worn by rock stars, countless other movie stars, and even presidents. In fact, jeans would eventually become so popular that they became the norm that others began to rebel against. Whereas the youth of the 1950s adopted the James Dean image as a form of rebellion against their parents’ generation, the youth in the 1970s would often view jeans as a symbol of an establishment and culture that they were against.
In an expression of that anger and opposition, young people associated with the punk movement during the 1970s would often destroy goods that they viewed as representative of the much-despised consumer culture. Blue jeans were one of the main targets of this form of protest, so they were often worn with rips and tears. Ironically enough, torn and scuffed up jeans would gradually become the trend toward the 1990s, and the rest is a very recent, observable history and reality.
The Many Forms of Jeans
Of course, the first and foremost division of jeans is between the models for men and women, which, in turn, include a wide range of different products that have cropped up in the decades following the rise to the popularity of jeans’. We already mentioned the emergence of torn and scuffed jeans, but these are relatively minor variations that can appear on a whole range of different models.
The second most significant way in which jeans are differentiated is in the way they are cut and modeled, and many of these models have their variations for both men and women. Straight jeans, for instance, are one of the most common types, and they are perhaps the closest thing to the old-fashioned, original blue jeans. As their name suggests, they are straight, meaning that there is no variation from top to bottom in their width and in how they fit.
Skinny jeans, on the other hand, fit much more snugly and are usually manufactured to cling and fit the wearer’s shape. Also common are slim jeans, which fall somewhere in between straight and skinny. Bootcut is another style with male and female variations. These jeans usually widen as they approach the ankle since they were originally invented to accommodate boots, which made them popular with cowboys.
These are only some of the countless different types of jeans, and it’s a safe bet that there are more on the way in the future. Recent trends have seen the emergence of all sorts of new styles, such as saggy and loose jeans.
Easily Maintained and Repurposed
Durability and fashion appeal are not the only perks that come with jeans. Certainly, durability is a good thing, and it gives consumers better value for their money, but this is a benefit that is slowly diminishing when it comes to popular jeans. Over time, many models of jeans have come to be manufactured using weaker denim because of the demand for such appearances.
Another great thing about jeans is how easily they can be modified, personalized, and completely repurposed. Truth be told, some of these possibilities are owed to trends, but this doesn’t make the benefits less real. Jeans cut into shorts are one common example of how a pair of jeans can easily be repurposed when summer comes around. People often cut their jeans at different lengths, which can turn them into the shortest cut-offs, slightly shortened, cuffed pants, or something in between.
Denim Being a strong material can also be used for purposes other than apparel. Pieces of cut-up denim can be incorporated into quilts, for instance, regardless of whether the whole quilt is made out of denim or a combination of materials. Indeed, denim can work quite well with a range of other materials and is very useful in various creative and practical endeavors.
Jeans are also often easy to clean and are very suitable for being cleaned only in the needed spots. The durability of denim allows you to scrub quite a bit when trying to remove a stain, so it’s often not necessary to do laundry. Still, if you care about keeping the color strong, some simple tips apply when doing laundry. Turning the jeans inside out and using laundry products that aren’t too harsh will do the trick.