Friday, February 13, 2015

Blue Jeans Friday

I don't know about you, but I love blue jeans.  This was probably born out of my being a teenager in the 70's when jeans were the standard of living for most of us teens.

But, since I write historical novels, I thought it would be fun to share some of the history of blue jeans on this Friday - which for many offices is a casual dress day.

Levi Strauss is credited with the actual creation of what would become blue jeans.

His creation started in 1853 and by the 1870's Levi's were common fashion for men.

So why were jeans created? Strauss saw men, particular hardworking miners who were in need of heavy-duty work pants, Strauss took brown canvas tent material to make the first pairs of what he called "waist overalls".  These were simple pants without belt loops or pockets.  So how did the men keep them up?  There was a cinch strap in the back.

Here are a couple of fellows sporting their jeans.

Using duck canvas material was gradually shifted to denim.  Denim got its name from the French region where it was created - Nimes, France.  Serge de' Nimes was a heavy twill cloth that Strauss dyed indigo for his workpants.  Some sources say that calling this material "denim" goes all the way back to 1577.

Keep in mind also, that long before this, Genoa, Italy had sailors who wore blue pants and the French called these, "bleu de' Genes" with Genes being a version of Genoa.

Another interesting side note is that in the British colony of India there were similar pants called dungarees. These were a casual pants made from a heavy cloth the Hindi's called dungri.  It was used for sales and tents, but when transformed into pants, it was often blue in color.

So while some called them denims, dungarees and bleu de' Genes, most sources say that the term of jeans in America wasn't really coined until about 1901.  Other sources even stretch that to say that blue jeans is a term that was born out of the 1950's.  No matter, they were popular pants that served workmen well.

Levi Strauss is definitely created with birthing this new fashion in America.  As the father of "Levi's" this Bavarian immigrant continues to be highly regarded for his ingenious creation.  For years he sold these pants in brown duck canvas or denim and after a time came to realize that the denim was far more popular.

Denim changed with age, making it softer and more conformed to the frame of the wearer and thus became the preferred material.  As for the color, indigo was one of those dyes that was good for hiding stains and dirt.  However, it was also a dye that didn't permeate the threads of the fabric like other dyes, so in time molecules chipped away and the jeans faded with use.

It's estimated today that over 450 million - yes million -  pairs of jeans are sold each and every year and the average American owns seven pairs in a variety of styles and colors.

Prices range all over the board with designer jeans going for as much as $1.3 million due to having diamonds sewn onto them for decoration.

This page of antique Levi's sold for $60,000.00

Maybe the most amazing thing is that Levi Strauss created a fashion that has lasted over 150 years and has no indication of ending any time soon.  Now, if you'll excuse me - I'm off to go count my jeans and see if I really have 7 pairs.

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