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The Surprising Origin of Jeans

The Surprising Origin of Jeans

We all wear Jeans, from the cheapest to the most extravagant brands. We all claim that we do it out of comfort , but studies show that there are a myriad of other fabrics that are much more comfortable. The same studies suggest that maybe it’s a “mental” comfort and for practical reasons – the exact reason why they were born. They are trendy and they are strong. Where do they come from? Why were they invented?

Genoa Port – Around the time of the Jeans Fabric invention

The Genoese Sailors

The word Jeans seems to be an Americanized version of the French word for Genoa – Genes. The maritime city where Columbus was born, apparently developed a sturdy material made out of cotton in the 1500s to be used by sailors when on duty. The fabric was made out of cotton, it was white, and it could be worn when wet.

Cloth from Nimes

In Nimes, textile shops tried to replicate the cloth that was produced in Genes and accidentally were able to create a similar fabric which was soon labeled the “fabric de Nimes” (From Nimes), which eventually led the fabric to be called denim.

A Bavarian for San Francisco Miners

1882 Miner Workers Wearing Jeans

The story of modern-day Jeans starts with a Bavarian immigrant who brought denim to America – Levi Strauss. Upon arriving to San Francisco in the mid 1800s, he started selling to miners tents and wagon coverings made of canvas. An astute observer, he soon noticed that miners and gold diggers went through a pair of pants in a matter of weeks. He tried to solve the problem by making pants out of canvas, and they were a success. Yet, these pants were too stiff so he started experimenting with different fabrics he knew.

Levi Strauss soon settled on denim. He made the first pair and stitched them up with metal rivets to make them sturdy, colored them dark blue to hide stains, and added a small pocket for pocket watches. Blue Jeans became immediately popular and were adopted by Cowboys, Polo players, and anyone in need of strong pants.

Oldest Jeans found in Arizona Mine – 138 Years old.

Wide Adoption

In the upcoming decades, more and more people realized the sturdiness and usefulness of these new pants. It was not until an advertisement appeared in Vogue in 1935, that a ‘western chic’ trend was born which started a fad that increased only in the 1970 with designer Jeans. It is now calculated that every American owns an average of 7 pairs of these unique pants.