Everyone owns at least one or two pairs of jeans, probably a lot more than that. You’re probably wearing a pair of jeans as you’re reading this very sentence.
Everyone thinks jeans were invented by the world-famous Levi Strauss & Co. (aka Levi’s), a name synonymous with the classic blue jean. In truth, they simply invented the style that became the most popular.
Young Levi Strauss (right) was a dry goods merchant, and Jacob Davis (left) was a tailor who bought his cloth from him. These two men created riveted jeans, which featured copper rivets to reinforce key stress points on a denim garment.
Note the “Original Riveted” on the label.
The actual origin of blue jeans and denim fabric goes back further, emerging sometime in the 17th century out of Genoa, Italy, and Nimes, France.
Genoan weavers produced a fabric very similar to modern day jeans and the French name for Genoa, “Gênes,” is likely the origin of the modern name “jeans.” French weavers attempted to recreate the Genoan fabric, and eventually created their own version which was called “de Nimes” (i.e., from Nimes), later known as denim. These fabrics were popular with the working class because of their durability and relative cheap cost.
A traditional female Genoese “blue jeans” dress.
After a long stint in relative obscurity with the working class (especially miners), jeans exploded into popularity in the 1950s with the Greaser subculture inspired by James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause.
Today, jeans come in all shapes and sizes, but there’s one thing they all have in common …