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May 20, 2022

On May 20, 1873: Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis Invented Blue Jeans

On May 20, 1873, San Francisco businessman Levi Strauss and Reno, Nevada, tailor Jacob Davis are given a patent to create work pants reinforced with metal rivets, marking the birth of one of the world’s most famous garments: blue jeans.

The oldest pair in the Levi’s archives date from 1879. (Photo: Kate Sommers-Dawes/Mashable)

(Photo: Kate Sommers-Dawes/Mashable)

(Photo: Kate Sommers-Dawes/Mashable)

Originally called “XX” as they were considered extra, extra strong, they have continued to be manufactured ever since, taking the world by storm. Originally they were called waist overalls or britches and sold as working wear to miners, cowboys and general workers in central California.

In 1890, they began to be termed “501’s”, after their “lot”number. The term “jeans” comes from the old name for a similar woven fabric from Genoa called “Gene fustian” in the 16th century. The material was used to make working trousers for sailors. It seems that the name “jeans” was so strongly associated with pants and trousers that it evolved from a fabric name into the name of a garment.

The term “denim” went through a similar process. The town of NĂ®mes in France  gave its name to “serge de Nimes” that originally was a form of woolen cloth. In the 19th century however, the term was associated with a cotton twilled fabric that was made in large numbers into trousers for navy of the Republic of Genoa.

By the 1920s, Levi’s denim waist overalls were the top-selling men’s work pant in the United States. As decades passed, the craze only grew, and now blue jeans are worn and beloved by people old, young and everything in between around the world.


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