Thursday, May 31, 2012

Shipping Masts To Fashion ~ History's Look At Denim Jeans

Jeans, or denim, was first used as material in ship's sails in Genoa, Italy, as it was sturdy and could stand up to the strong gales that blew in the middle of the oceans.  Peasants soon found that the cloth was more resistant to stress than other fabrics and many favoured it over any other cloth.  

The words "Jeans" comes from the Italian word, "genuense", meaning "of Genoa" and the word "jean" was what the locals called corduroy; which it closely resembled at the time.  The first pair of jeans is now on display at the Museo Centrale del Risorgimento and were ones that were worn by Giuseppe Garibaldi in May, 1860.

After jeans were exported throughout Europe, the procedure was copied by weavers in the French city of Nimes.  After much painstaking experiments that often failed, a twill fabric was developed that became quickly known as denim, or "de Nimes".  It wasn't until the end of the 18th century that jeans arrived in North America.

In the 1850's, dry goods merchant, 24 year old Levi Strauss left New York for San Fransisco where he began selling his Levi's jeans to the mining communities of California during the peak of the Gold Rush.  When asked by one of the prospectors what he was selling, Strauss replied tents and wagon covers and the prospector retorted, "You should've brought pants!", Strauss put his business savvy to work and created the first pair of denim trouser overalls.

One of his regular customers, Jacob Davies, a tailor who often bought bolts of cloth from Strauss' wholesale house, invented the copper rivet to help reinforce the stress points that his customers were often complaining about.  Davis, a man of meager means, approached Strauss and asked if he would like to go into business together and the two patented the idea on May 20, 1873.

Jeans were first used in North America by workers, as trousers were simple and sturdy, especially those who worked in the factories during World War II.  Until the 1960's, Levi Strauss dominated the market with his "waist overalls" rather than "jeans.:  

In 1955, James Dean, set the pace for jeans as we know them today, when he wore the first pair in the movie, "Rebel Without A Cause."  This trend began to plant the seeds of teenage angst and rebellion.  During the 1950's, jeans were banned from being worn in theaters, restaurants and schools.  During the 1960's, jeans became more acceptable as the hippie movement continued to express themselves through the rebellious process of wearing what they considered an act of freedom of choice and by the 1970's, they were the general fashion choice for casual wear clothing.

Nowadays, you can find jeans in almost every colour, style and size, for men, women and children.  In 2005, American's alone,spent over $15 billion dollars in jean fashion sales.  From supporting ships to supporting fashion, denim has proven to be a remarkable invention indeed.




post signature  **  Written by me...just because I wanted to~!!  **