Although many people think that jeans started as an American trend, specifically in California, among gold miners, that is not exactly true. Actually, the history of jeans goes all the way back to the 18th century in Italy. The word “jeans” comes from a type of material that was made in Europe. The material was named “jean” after sailors from Genoa in Italy since they wore clothes that were made from it. The word “denim” probably comes from a type of cotton cloth called “Serge de Nimes.”
Serge de Nimes
“Serge” is a kind of material and Nimes is a small town in the south of France. Therefore, America didn’t invent the product. However, America deserves credit for the popularization of the jeans. Unlike their European counterparts, the first American jeans were made from slightly different fabrics, at first, from a mixture of things, but plantation labor over time made cotton widely available in the United States. A dye taken from plants in India and America was called indigo and it made jean cloth a dark blue color.
Jeans and the Gold Rush
Cotton denim jeans were the standard by the time the Gold Rush started in 1848. However, miners didn’t wear jeans until 1853, when Leob Strauss moved to San Francisco and started selling his pants wholesale. He changes his name to Levi, although nobody knows why. Jacob Davis is another guy who doesn’t get enough credit even though he deserves it. He was a tailor from Reno (Nevada) who figured out how to put rivets in the corners of pants. Davis has collaborated with Strauss.
The jeans were hit among the miners because they were sturdy enough to handle repeated washings and hard work. Strauss knew that fact and in 1886 Levi’s Jeans even bore a leather label showing them being pulled between two horses in order to emphasize how durable the jeans actually were. The jeans remained the cloth for work of the rough and tumble West until the middle of the 20th century. In the 1930s, jeans started to tickle out the general public.
Jeans meets Hollywood
First, Hollywood Westerns started showing across movie screens, introducing audiences to macho types wearing jeans and engaging in many cowboyish activities, such as lassoing cattle. The World War II soldier picked up another trend about 10 years later. This trend was a manly-man archetype, and soldiers usually wore jeans when off the duty. In the 1950s, rebels and teenagers realized that wearing jeans would make them look hardscrabble, aloof, and tough without requiring them to actually do any of the dirty work of soldiers or cowboys.
Many college and university students wore jeans in the 1960s. In order to match the 60’s fashions, different styles of jeans were made, such as psychedelic jeans, painted jeans, embroidered jeans, and others. In a lot of non-western countries, jeans were a symbol of Western decadence and were very hard to find. People all around the world wrote letters to the companies in the United States, asking them to send the writer a pair of jeans.