So ubiquitous have the blue trousers made from denim or dungaree material become, that blue is now considered one of the neutral dressing colours. Although the term “jeans” often refers to a particular style of trousers called “blue jeans”, today, various styles exist in varying colours. Historic brands include Levi’s, Lee, and Wrangler.

Jeans come in various fits, including skinny, tapered (also referred to as “pencil”), straight, boot cut, narrow bottom, low waist, flare and baggy. They gained their popularity in the 1950’s, after Hollywood had saturated the market with western movies featuring cowboys, who wore jeans, which were then taken up as a trend among teenagers of the day, especially the more rebellious ones.

Jeans have come to stay as the unrivalled staple of casual dressing in today’s world of fashion. As a matter of obvious fact, it has also become a regular feature in formal and semi-formal dressing.  Nonetheless, few have knowledge of the history of what we now know as “jeans”.

Reference must be made to the place of origin of a thing, which is essential in its etymology to facilitate common-place identification. The city of Genoa (pronounced jen-no-ah), in Italy, was famous for its cotton corduroy, called jean. During the Republic of Genoa, the jeans were exported to various parts of Europe by sailors from Genoa. In the French city of Nimes, weavers unsuccessfully attempted to reproduce the fabric exactly. However, with some experimentation, they developed another twill fabric that became known as denim (de-Nimes).

In 1848, gold was discovered in California, and thus began the era of the Gold Rush. A need for strong, sturdy material arose among the gold miners.

In 1853, a 24-year-old German immigrant named Leob Strauss (later changed to Levi) moved from New York to San Francisco, California with the intention of starting a wholesale dry goods business.

Shortly after he arrived, a prospector made inquiries about Mr. Levi Strauss’ stock. When Strauss told him that he had rough canvas to use for tents and wagon covers, the prospector exclaimed, “You should have brought pants!”, saying he couldn’t find a pair of pants strong enough to last.

A major challenge the miners had with their clothes was with their pockets, which easily tore away. A tailor named Jacob Davis had the idea of using metal rivets (fasteners) to hold the pockets and jeans together so they wouldn’t tear. Davis wanted to patent his idea, but he had no money, so he wrote to Levi Strauss, asking to partner with him to patent and sell clothing reinforced with rivets. Levi accepted his offer, and on May 20, 1873, the two men received U.S. Patent No. 139,121 for an “Improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings”.

There you have it! Now you know how the jeans you wear came to be.

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