Forever In Blue Jeans, Babe!
“Money talks, but it can’t sing and dance and it can’t walk. And long as I can have you here with me, I’d much rather be, Forever in Blue Jeans, babe!”
These are the lyrics of the 1979 Neil Diamond hit released just six years after the 100th anniversary of Blue Jeans.
Blue jeans are high fashion now, but did you know that there there was a time when they were for the poor and working class?
With the Industrial Revolution shifting most of the workforce from agricultural to urban industrial jobs, stronger and more protective workwear was required. Thus by the mid 1800’s the overall which was made to fit over a shirt and trousers, was born. They were made from coarse and durable cloth, mostly denim. At that time, the overall colors identified the workers; white for plasterers and painters, pin stripes for rail road workers and farmers and other laborers wore brown or blue. They were cheap and they carried a stigma of lower-working class.
The Invention Of Blue Jeans
May 20, 1873 marked an historic day: the birth of blue jeans. It was on that day that Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis obtained a U.S. patent on the process of putting rivets in men’s work pants for the very first time.
Bavarian-born Levi Strauss went to San Francisco in 1853 at the age of 24 to open a West Coast branch of his brothers’ New York wholesale dry goods business. Over the next 20 years, he built his business into a very successful operation, becoming a well-respected businessman. One of Levi’s customers was a tailor named Jacob Davis.
One day the wife of a local laborer asked Jacob to make a pair of pants for her husband that wouldn’t fall apart. Jacob tried to think of a way to strengthen his trousers. He then came up with the idea to put metal rivets at points of strain, like pocket corners and the base of the button fly. These riveted pants were an instant hit. Jacob quickly decided to take out a patent on the process, but needed a business partner to help get the project rolling. He immediately thought of Levi Strauss, from whom he had purchased the cloth to make his riveted pants.
Davis wrote to Levi to suggest that the two men hold the patent together. Levi, being an astute businessman, saw the potential for this new product, and agreed to Jacob’s proposal. The two men received patent #139,121 from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on May 20, 1873. Within a very short time, the jean was a bona fide success.
(Sew Guide have traced this timeline of dates in the history of Jeans)
- 15th Century – A Coarse cotton blend fabric woven with two coloured thread is produced in the city of Genoa, Italy. The word “jean” is thought to be derived from the name of the Italian city.
- Late 16th century – A sturdy fabric called “Serge de Nîmes” was developed in France, hence the name “denim”.
- Early 19th century – A very durable Denim is woven in America with cotton fibers.
- 1872 – Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis formed partnership to produce work clothes with metal rivets to the highly stressed seams for durability
- 1873 – The first jeans known as XX was patented by Strauss and Davis and became the most widely used workers’ pants in America
- 1880’s – All Levis incorporated orange top stitching, 5 pockets , ticket pocket, bar tacking, and the leather patch with two horses
- 1890’s – The XX Jeans is given the iconic number 501.
- 1920’s – Levis pants in denim started to be sold all over America.
- 1930’s – The first denim jeans for women is made.
- 1950’s – The Levi Jeans 505 with zipper fly was launched.
- 1950’s – Other Jeans brands such as Lee Cooper and Wranglers arrived. European countries also adopted jeans
- 1960’s – The word “jeans” was officially adopted as the name of the denim pants by the Baby Boomers.
- 1970’s – Jeans became popular among the youth with many celebrities sporting blue denim jeans.
- 1980 – Big American fashion designers adopted denim. Personification and customization became popular.
- 2000 – Premium denim became popular.
Since the 1970’s blue jeans has been synonymous with youth, progressiveness, freedom and later high fashion.
It was mainly due to the western cowboy movies of the times and the popularity of rock and roll bands that denim became very popular among the fashion conscious youth. Movies played a very important part in popularizing the idea of the jeans clad youth. Thus Jeans started to evolve as a fashion statement rather than just clothing for the working class.
The core values of workwear are toughness and durability and this has led to the wide appeal of jeans. So whether it’s leisure or formal workwear that you need, as manufacturer and supplier of corporate clothing and work wear, Mbatsani Africa always ensures a smooth process in the procurement of fabric. Our fabrics are value engineered and quality tested. Contact us to see how we can help you.