vintage, nostalgia and memories


May 27, 2017

12 Interesting Things You Didn't Know About Blue Jeans

Ever since Levi Strauss, a German immigrant with a dry goods store in San Francisco, teamed up with Jacob Davis, a tailor from Reno, Nevada, to make sturdy pants for miners in the 1870s, America has had a love affair with blue jeans. Here are five things you may not know about this most democratic of pants.

1. Those Rivets Had a Purpose.


It wasn't just for style that Levi's jeans have had copper rivets on the pockets since the beginning. They were originally designed to make the seams of these miners' pants more durable. An 1873 article in the Pacific Rural Press opined that this feature will become "quite popular amongst our working men," noting, "nothing looks more slouchy in a workman than to see his pockets ripped open and hanging down, and no other part of the clothing is so apt to be torn and ripped as the pockets." The small fifth pocket on a pair of Levi's, by the way, is called a watch pocket since it was originally meant for placing a pocket watch inside. In the 1930s, the pockets were sewn to the pants so that the rivets were covered because of complaints that they scratched furniture. But they were returned to view in 1947.


2. Blue Was Best.


The words "jeans" and "denim" come from two European ports that had been making similar fabrics since the Middle Ages. In Nimes, France, weavers had been trying to reproduce a cotton corduroy made famous in Genoa, Italy. They instead came up with their own sturdy fabric, called "serge de Nimes," later shortened to "denim." This was the material Strauss and Taylor used for their jeans. The threads of this fabric were dyed indigo because, unlike most natural dyes, indigo binds to cloth's threads externally. So, every time the fabric is washed, some of the dye molecules — and the thread — are stripped away. This process softens the rough fabric and makes the jeans more comfortable over time, not to mention more form-fitting. Nowadays, synthetic indigo is used.


3. Dude Ranches Made Jeans Popular with Everyday Americans.


Although people often associate jeans with cowboys, records show relatively few of them wore the fabric (farmers and miners were more likely). But by the 1930s, jeans had become popular with everyday Americans, thanks to the dude ranch craze. During the Depression era, ranchers made extra money by allowing paying customers to visit and play at being cowboys. Many an American purchased their first pair of jeans in anticipation of their dude ranch visit. But these pants were seen strictly as weekend wear.


4. Movie Stars Made Them Popular with Teens.


In 1955, James Dean made the classic teen-angst film "Rebel Without a Cause," telegraphing his rebellious ways with his uniform of blue jeans, white T-shirt and leather jacket. Marlon Brando wore the same look in the 1953 film "The Wild One" and Marilyn Monroe popularized the outfit for women (minus the leather jacket) in "The Misfits." The "cowboy" look symbolized that these young people didn't want to conform to society and longed for the open range, so to speak. In fact, jeans were banned from schools in the 1950s, seen as a symbol against authority. Nevertheless — or because of this — jeans became firmly associated with youth culture as the 1950s morphed into the '60s and beyond. And as these teens became adults, they continued wearing jeans everywhere.


5. Skinny Jeans Put the Greenback in Peril.


Money is printed on a cotton-blend paper supplied solely by the Crane Company. About 30% of the cotton Crane used to make the paper came from scrap denim. But the denim used for skinny jeans contains stretchy materials like spandex, which ruins the cotton for the bank notes. So Crane had to scramble to find an alternate source of cotton to make up the shortfall.


6. Levi's Made Bing Crosby a Custom Denim Tuxedo.


Back in 1951, when blue jeans signaled rebellious youth, Bing Crosby was denied entry to a hotel in Canada because he was decked out in denim. He eventually got a room because he was Bing Crosby. When Levi's heard the story, they made him a custom tuxedo.


7. Blue Jeans Likely Existed Long Before Levi Strauss.


Paintings dating from the 17th century — 200 years before Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis received their patent — show peasants wearing the unmistakable blue fabric.


8. Gold Rush Prospectors Wore Denim Jeans.


Denim jeans gained significant popularity during the Californian Gold Rush. Back then, thousands of people migrated to Southwestern United States in hopes of finding gold. Certain businessmen used this opportunity to sell clothes and prospecting gears to these migrants. Among the clothes sold included denim jeans, which seemed to be the perfect fit for the job. Denim jeans were strong, rugged, durable, and able to withstand the harsh conditions of gold prospecting. This paved the way for the modern-day denim industry, placing jeans in the limelight for everyone to see.


9. Raw Denim Hasn't Been Washed.


There are numerous types of denim, each of which has its own unique characteristics and properties. One such denim type is raw denim, which lives up to its namesake of having not been washed. Also known as dry denim, raw denim refers to any type of genuine denim material that is not washed after it is dyed. This is in stark contrast to washed denim, which is washed during its production. Some people prefer raw denim because of its unique, worn-in appearance, though others prefer the more conventional look of washed denim.


10. Zip It on the Right


Earlier, during the time of World War II, jeans for men had the normal style of the zipper being in front, but for women, the zipper was placed on the right side. Thanks to the one who switched and stitched it back to the front.


11. The World War II and Jeans


The Americans can be credited for spreading jeans throughout the world, courtesy the World War II soldiers who wore it extensively when they were not at war. In fact, the Second World War can actually be said to propagate jeans the most in the Western world. It’s that time, from when it started becoming a rage.


12. The Oldest Pair of Jeans


The oldest pair of jeans ever to be made was a Levi Strauss & Co. 501 Jeans, which is supposed to be about one hundred and fifteen years old. It was discovered in the year 1997 and auctioned in the year 2005 to an anonymous Japanese collector for $60,000.



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