The History Of Blue Jeans

May 18, 2020
History of Blue Jeans, Denim Jacket from Tommy Hilfiger

Jeans Have you ever sat down and really thought about your style? What outfits, colors, or specific articles of clothing do you come back to when you want to feel your best? Ironically, it’s a hard question to ask. To be perfectly honest, I found my style when creating this blog. In showcasing 10×10 challenges and documenting the beauty in my life, I was able to see a theme of things. I love to dress up. A classic blazer, nice shoes, a button-down shirt, paired with jeans. I guess when you look up “Business Casual” in the dictionary you find a picture of my closet.

It got me wondering, where on earth did my favorite clothing come from.

Insert, the history of blue jeans.

A story that is sure to surprise you, as I pretty much knew zero about this when researching it. And a story that will make you admire your jean wear so much more. You might even discover some old trends you hope to bring back into fashion.

We’ll start at the beginning.

The Start Of The American Blue Jean

In 1873, Jacob Davis, a tailor from Nevada, lived in California during the gold rush. He worked with men out in the mines helping them with clothes for their work. When the wives started complaining that none of their husband’s clothes lasted, Jacob knew something needed to change. Enter Levi Strauss (originally Leob until he unknowingly why changed his name to Levi), the name that how now become synonymous with jeans, helped get Jacob the materials he needed to create lasting pants. This included a cotton material called brown duck cloth. A sturdy cloth that Jacob discovered he could reenforce with copper rivets in easy to tear places. This allowed the pants to be extremely strong and hold up against the hard work the miners went through.

As Levi and Jacob built their business, Levi added denim cotton to their line of pants in 1896, dyed in indigo blue, that would eventually become the signature of their brand. The rivets to their pants now patented with a color that made them stand out, Levi Strauss & Co. was born.

The story of how blue jeans came to be is just the beginning of how they’ve become so many’s favorite clothing.

Blue Jeans Over The Years

Originally clothing dedicated to the working-class, blue jeans slowly made their ranks up to being everyone’s favorite clothing. After Levi died in 1902, blues jeans slowly made their way out of the working class and into the movies. In the 1930’s, Jeans were now the apparel for the wild west. Rugged and strong they were made for the American man, riding through the deserts, fighting in the towns, and camping out under the stars.

By the 1950s blue jeans continued to grow in popularity especially once one James Dean decided to start wearing them. It was James that brought jeans back into the forefront of society and made a new name for them. Jeans weren’t rugged, but cool. So cool in fact, that high schools banned them because of the type of lifestyle they projected. A more promiscuous way of living.

Of course, when the school tells you you can’t wear something, it only makes it more popular which means that through the 50s’ the love for blue jeans grew. By the 1960’s it wasn’t just the guys who were expressing their love for jeans, but the women too. Through the women’s movement and the rise of the hippie movies, blue jeans with a bellbottom flair became the rage. Jeans became customized with drawings and doodles that covered them. They were now works of art and a sign of freedom. The ultimate icon of America. Along with custom pants, in the ’60s the rise of other jean apparel including jackets and vests began to make their way on the scene.

By the time the 1980’s hit blue jeans we a part of everyone’s closet. The ’80s took the iconic pant and made it their own with the addition of the skinny jean. 10 years later in 1990, you would see fashion go back to slouchy baggy pants that added to the popular grunge look. Finally, in the 2000s jeans started to add more of a stretch to become the jegging and fit with the lowrise (thong included) super skinny jeans.

Blue Jeans Today

Now, over 100 years after Levi and Jacob started their fashion brand, jeans are a favorite piece in most closets. They range from style and color but fill our dressers making their mark on our daily life. Blue, while still the dominant color, is no longer a limitation. White, black, grey, floral prints, and pretty much every color of the rainbow now make up the icon pant. What you won’t find in most of today’s jeans is the rugged long-lasting quality of those pants. With fabrics that have been made cheaper, jeans are no longer thick and sturdy like the original jeans did. However, when you go to Japan, which now holds the name for having the best jeans in the world, you might just find, the classic details of jeans from 1873 still exist. Just take it from Kyle Ng who travels around the world to find the perfect jean in the free tv show, Social Fabric on Red Bull.