Blue Jeans Day
"And long as I can have you here with me
I'd much rather be
Forever in blue jeans"
~ Forever in Blue Jeans, Neil Diamond, 1978
On this day, May 20th, in 1873, San Francisco businessman Levi Strauss and Reno, Nevada tailor Jacob Davis were given a patent to create work pants reinforced with metal rivets, marking the creation of one of the world’s most famous garments: blue jeans. From a workaday item created for the labourers in the the developing West, denim blue jeans are now a staple of most people's workaday wardrobe, a designer staple, and are constantly reinvented in modern forms including jorts (jeans x shorts), jeggings (jeans x leggings), and the newest incarnation, the jeato (jeans x speedo) and even ballgowns!
On this day, May 20th, in 1873, San Francisco businessman Levi Strauss and Reno, Nevada, and tailor Jacob Davis were given a patent to create work pants reinforced with metal rivets, marking the creation of one of the world’s most famous garments: blue jeans.
Denim was traditionally colored blue with indigo dye to make blue jeans, although "jean" formerly denoted a different, lighter, cotton fabric. The contemporary use of the word "jeans" comes from the French word for Genoa, Italy (Gênes), where the first denim trousers were made. The name "denim" derives from French serge de Nîmes, meaning 'serge from Nîmes'.
Denim has been used in the USA since the mid 19th century but gained popularity in 1873 when Jacob W. Davis, a tailor from Nevada, manufactured the first pair of “rivet-reinforced” denim pants. His concept for making reinforced jeans was inspired when a female customer requested a pair of durable and strong pants for her husband to chop wood. When Davis was about to finish making the denim jeans, he saw some copper rivets lying on a table and used the rivets to fasten the pockets. At this time, clothes for Western labourers, such as teamsters, surveyors, and miners, were not very durable. Soon, the popularity of denim jeans began to spread rapidly and Davis was overwhelmed with requests. He then wrote a proposal to the dry goods wholesaler Levi Strauss & Co. that had been supplying Davis with bolts of denim fabric. Davis’s proposal was “to patent the design of the rivet-reinforced denim pant, with Davis listed as inventor, in exchange for certain rights of manufacture”. Levi Strauss & Co. was so impressed by the possibilities for profit in the manufacture of the garment that they then hired Davis to be in charge of the mass-production in San Francisco.
By designer Carol A.L. Martin, this tartan was created by "just playing around with the blues."
For a short video evolution of the blue jean and denim styles for women from the 1900s on, click the faded denim.