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The history of denim jeans

Although there have been different stories about how jeans came about more than a century ago, Levi Strauss and Nevada tailor Jacob Davis are constantly mentioned in stories and records. When it comes to the birth of the first pair of jeans, the name, Levi Strauss, will inevitably be mentioned. Strauss is universally recognised as the architect of denim jeans.

At the pinnacle of the Gold Rush a German refugee Levi Strauss opened his goods wholesale company in San Francisco in 1853, he found miners complaining about their easily ton cotton trousers and pockets that "split right open", spilling the ore that miners stored inside. So Strauss came up with the idea of making rugged overalls from the canvas he originally brought over to sell as tent cloth. `The miners were very excited and satisfied with the new trousers. Some say that this innovation only came about because Strauss was at the end of your tether to dispose of his canvas, which was not selling well. Levi Strauss slacks were a great winner.

Although Levi Strauss played a dig part the birth of the jeans we know today could also not have happened without Jacob Davis, who was a tailor in a small shop in Nevada. Alkali Ike a miner in the Comstock mining camp in Nevada, often complained to Davis his tailor that his trousers were always torn apart while mining ore. Davis came upon the idea of adding copper rivets which were used to make Saddles to the corners of the pockets so that they would do stronger.

He wrote to Strauss his fabric supplier on 5 July 1872 claiming to be the inventor of riveted trousers and suggesting that the company should share the patent with him. He also sent a letter and sample trousers made of denim.

It is hard to get a clear-cut account on the beginning of jeans. The only proof is the letter from Davis to Strauss and their register for the patent for riveted trousers which was granted in 1873.

The manufacture of riveted trousers began in 1876 and the history of jeans was born.

Where do jeans come from?

It is widely thought that the name "jeans" comes from a kind of endurable trousers called genoese or genes, which were the uniform for sailors in the Italian port city, Genova. "Jean" is from the Italian word "da Genova". Other experts, who carried out further study of the word, acknowledged that it is the American spelling for genois, which refers to a kind of canvas. The canvas was used for work-wear from the late 19th century, but the name "jeans" had not been commonly used until 1920. They were typically called riveted trousers or waist overalls

Indigo denim

At first, the canvas used for the riveted trousers was thick and firm, and by no means relaxing. This was a worrying dilemma for Strauss. He later on found a kind of blue and white cloth sold on the European market, which was both strong and soft. He straight away imported some. This fabric, called serge, was made in a small French town, and was referred to as serge de Nimes (serge cloth from Nimes). But when the cloth arrived in Britain, the British businessmen found it difficult to pronounce its name, therefore they called it "denim" for short.

Denim is a cotton twill fabric that is dyed with indigo, a natural dye from plants. The woven fabric is comprised of dyed warp threads, the lengthwise threads, and plain weft thread, the crosswise threads. As the indigo could only dye the surface of the thread, the colour would fade with time and use. Hence irregular fading and abrasion would appear, giving the fabric a unique style.

With the production of synthetic indigo in the early 1900s, cheap blue jeans became more and more popular. This wide recognition is closely associated with the connection between the colour blue and work-wear. As early as the 17"` century, indigo was widely used as a dye for work-wear in Europe. So for the Europeans who emigrated to America at that time, the familiar blue indigo colour was easily accepted. Blue denim work trousers became quite common for workers and indigo blue became the standard colour for Levi's jeans.

The "jeans" look

lt is said that the original design of jeans was inspired by the leotards of Texas cowboys, which featured slim hips, low waists and straight legs. In Levi's jeans, then, an orange- brown cotton thread was used, which left a conspicuous outer seam line. There were also five pockets, with each corner strengthened by rivets, and a zip that fastened the front. Later on, to build up the company image, several symbolic images were used on its jeans, namely the stitch, leather patch and red tab. nowadays, the familiar standard for jeans remains as indigo denim, external stitching, red tabs and leather patches.

Through the ages

The 20"` century was an exciting era, most notably for the two World Wars and the Great Depression. In one way or another, jeans made their presence felt during these times. The period of war ironically enhanced the popularity of jeans. In World War I, jeans were designated by the American federal government as the uniform for their troops. Lee's Union All was the chosen working uniform for soldiers, and even women who were in the armed forces were asked to wear the same uniform. As a result of these developments, jeans became more widespread after the war, particularly for women.

In 1926, the zip, invented by Whitcomb Judson in 1893, was used by Lee to create the first zipped jeans. While the men's jeans were zipped in front, women's jeans were zipped at the side as it was considered unacceptable otherwise. But 50 years later, Lee Cooper revolutionised women's jeans by zipping them in the front.

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