The origins of jeans

The origins of jeans, a very versatile garment

The origins of jeans, a very versatile garment. Origins in Genova


Jeans, as we know them today, came to be many years ago. Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis invented them in 1873. Our current jeans, which we also call denim, are a very peculiar pair of pants. They are resistant, very versatile, and made from a cotton-like fabric called denim.


This fabric originated in Italy, in the city of Genova


The origins of jeansIts name has its origin right in this city, as when we pronounce it in French, we call it Gênes, so it is believed that is where the current name “jeans” comes from.


The Genoese jeans were originally from a corduroy fabric, which was very resistant, and their quality-price ratio was great back then.


This fabric was very much like the corduroy made of cotton, as it was very popular at that time among the working people because it was very resistant and could hold itself very well in any kind of work.




The origins of jeans: Denim jeans arrive in France


The origins of jeansLater in France, specifically in the city of Nîmes, they tried to replicate the jeans they had seen in Genova (Italy). But instead of using the same fabric as the Italians, they thought of making them with different fabric.


This is the fabric they called “denim” (as they used them in the city of Nîmes) and to differentiate themselves from the Italians.


This fabric was a twill they considered to have more quality than the Genoese’s fabric. It was also thicker and already commonly used to make overalls and coats for workers.


The origins of jeans: India’s influence


The origins of jeansAs for the indigo blue color used in jeans, it owes its origin to India. There, and in Java, the bush where the indigo comes from grew. This bush was very common during the whole of the XIX century, and we can still find them in many plantations.


Although when Germany developed a way to syntonize the indigo, they used this new method instead of the one used until then.


As a fun fact, 20.000 tons of this product are used a year, although in reality only a few grams are needed to dye a pair of pants. In 1880 a chemist called Adolf von Baeyer after many investigations, produced, thanks to the anthranilic acid, a blue dye.


From this moment on, they stopped using vegetable-based dyes and used this new method. Today’s jeans are dyed in many tones, and for this, we can use any color that allows us to dye cotton fabrics.


The “denim” fabric, by having significant resistance and by also being very long-lasting, became very popular, which made them used on many occasions.


The origins of jeans: Uses and commercialization


The origins of jeansAmong its uses, we can highlight the great importance it had in the trade back then, especially in the textile trade, as denim was commonly used to make ships’ sails, which were commissioned from the general trade through the seaports.


They also used them to make canvases (which worked to cover all kinds of goods and materials the sailors kept on the docks in the seaports of Genova), as well as in the making of canopies and tents.


Besides these uses, they also used them to make pants, precisely because of their durability and resistance, which gave them an “all-purpose” use. This would be the first time they used them properly as work attire. Obviously, farmers also used them as work attire.


Another group of workers that used them for their work was miners (who back then were in the middle of America’s gold fever) in the western USA, precisely because of the great durability of the denim fabric.


The origins of jeans: Levi Strauss


By observing the miners’ work, and how their pants constantly broke, Strauss thought of making pants with denim, sorting out the issue of the frequent breaks.


Strauss moved to California in 1853, to sell tents made of denim to the miners so they could sleep close to their work.


When he noticed pants broke a lot, he thought of using that same denim to make pants, and thus avoid them breaking as often. Strauss was the one that made the patent on his name back in 1873.


They also used them in daily works, and even if they got wet, they dried and were as new. Sometimes they didn’t even take them off. If for any reason they needed to swim, they would then let them dry, and they were ready for a new fresh use. Denim pant’s exports to Europe began during the Genova Republic in the XVII and XVIII centuries.




The origins of jeans. We can’t forget about the closing of these jeans, the famous zipper.


Whitcomb L. Judson invented it in 1891, and she is also to blame for the outstanding success of this garment. This is a very versatile garment with multiple uses, both at the job level, as a sports attire, and, of course, as a casual clothing item.


Renowned brands like Lee, Wrangler, or Levi, started many years ago making different designs with a variety of patterns, styles, and dyeing in different colors, so we can use them for hard jobs, taking a stroll, or even for going to the office.


Likewise, we can currently find them in many lengths, different leg-width, and in different styles. There are also denim dungarees both for males and females. Its evolution hasn’t stopped since then, be it for miners, or field workers, or sailors trading in different countries.


Because of its toughness and durability, to today’s time, they are not only for hard labors, but they have also jumped to the cities and we can easily see people on the streets wearing this garment.


The zippers varied if they were for men, who wore it on the right side of the pants; or if they were for women, as in this case, they had it on the left side.


In the last century


The origins of jeans. With the arrival of world war two, the manufacturing of this garment dropped a little. The dungarees were more stylized, made also from denim, as they were more useful for soldiers and mechanics. When the 50s arrived, jeans were more popular among the younger, so they became a trend of the times. This was already a garment made not only as work attire but as a fashion integrated into society.


During these times the cinema elevated them as symbols of youthful rebellion (James Dean in 1955, in the movie Rebel Without a Cause). During the next decade, in the 60s, they started putting zippers at the front, regardless of whether they were for men or women. From 1960 its use was generally accepted, in the 70s, in the US, they became a “casual” attire.


Afterward, in the 80s and continuing their rise in popularity in the 90s with pop and rock music, they consolidated as a casual attire in the entire world. It is rare to find someone who hasn’t had, at some point, some jeans in their closet.


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *