The History of Blue Jeans
February 12, 2017
Garment worn by American manual workers at the end of the 19th century, blue jeans became emblematic of the American way of life, before the fashion of jeans gained all the continents and all social categories. The comfort and robustness of this seamed pants cut into the denim canvas have resisted and faded.
Where does the name come from?
The fabric used to make blue jeans is denim. It is a cotton canvas in serge weave that was originally woven in Nîmes, hence its name (denim would come phonetically from “de Nîmes”).
The very tight weave is made from a chain dyed blue (at least originally) and a weave or white. The blue of the chain came from a dye called “blu di genova” (in Italian, “blue of Genoa”) and the name jeans would come from a distortion of the pronunciation of the word genovese.
The birth of blue jean
The long history of jeans begins as early as the 16th century in Nîmes, where the denim fabric is made.
But it was in 1853, at the height of the gold rush, that Levi Strauss had the idea of making trousers in the canvas of his tents, for the Western conquerors then needed solid work clothes.
Around 1860, Levi Strauss continued to make pants by replacing the canvas with cotton made in Nîmes, just as robust but colored in blue by indigo baths: it was the birth of blue jeans.
The design of blue jeans Levi Strauss
It was not until 1873 that the orange stitching on the back pockets, in the shape of an arch representing an eagle, and the pockets with rivets appeared on blue jeans.
In the following year, to prevent counterfeiting, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis obtained the patent for the rivets on the pockets, which prevented them from tearing.
The 501 made its appearance on the market in 1890.
The blue jeans of the United States to Europe
During the great crisis of 1929, jeans was adopted by peasants and workers, and in 1933, under the New Deal, tens of thousands of denim overalls were distributed to the disinherited.
Around 1935, the fashion of blue jeans spread among a student and artistic population and these pants were introduced into women’s wardrobes.
Jeans landed in Europe with the GI’s in 1945. In Europe, this garment has always been more expensive than in its country of origin.
It is necessary to wait for this period so that the jeans is declined also in black.
In the 1950s, jeans, associated with the black jacket and the Harley, became the symbol of youth revolt. James Dean and Marlon Brando contribute to its success.
Blue jeans in the 70’s
The blue jean becomes a dress code for the hippie generation. Its shape changes with elephant paw jeans and it gets personalized. Indeed, it is customized, painted, embroidered, sewed shells, rhinestones, jewelry, flower motifs or “peace and love”.
In France, jeans became a very important commodity with the 1973 oil shock. This market grew exponentially until the early 1980s.
In New York, a selection of decorated jeans exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art for two months attracts 10,000 visitors.
It was in 1978 that the stone-washed, jeans washed away by a treatment that consists of bombarding the fabric of small pumice stones.
Blue jeans from the 80s to the present
After a decline in favor of slacks, lighter pants and more dressed, blue jeans returns to the front of the scene in 1986 and established itself as a product of fashion in its own right.
In the 1990s, the appearance of the superstar gave a kick to this great classic, soon followed by the Lycra jeans wave in 1994. Lycra jeans met a great success with women and in 1996, for the first time , women buy as many jeans as men.
In 2000, Rica Lewis became number one in jeans in the retail market.
Today, jeans have become an identity sign of belonging to a community. Its shape (the slim, the boot cut, the relax, the regular, etc.) or its brand (diesel, notify, acquaverde, pepe jeans) is a sign of rallying to a social stereotype.
From the functional clothing worn by the pioneers to the creations of the greatest stylists, blue jean will have marked the history of the 20th century.