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Were Blue Jeans Invented in the USA?

The short answer is yes, American-style blue jeans were invented in the USA. Jacob W. Davis and Levi Strauss invented the blue jeans that we recognize today back in 1871. However, there is much more to the story.

So, were blue jeans invented in the USA?

The Earliest “Blue Jeans” Weren’t Made in the USA

Today’s blue jeans are made from denim, but research shows that the fabric used for making blue jeans likely originated in Italy and France. A cotton corduroy was used for work clothes in Genoa, Italy while a twill fabric was used in Nîmes, France. The French version was considered higher quality and used for smocks and overalls while the Italian version was worn by the lower class. The indigo to dye the fabric came from bush plantations in India until the late 19th century when it was replaced with German methods to reproduce the color.

The term jeans appears first in 1795, when a Swiss banker by the name Jean-Gabriel Eynard and his brother Jacques went to Genoa and both were soon heading a flourishing commercial concern. In 1800 Massena’s troops entered the town and Jean-Gabriel was entrusted with their supply. In particular he furnished them with uniforms cut from blue cloth called “bleu de Genes” whence later derives the famous garment known worldwide as “blue jeans”.

Sullivan, James | Jeans: A Cultural History of an American Icon

Levi Strauss and the Beginning of Modern Blue Jeans

It was in 1853 when Levi Strauss parted from his brothers in New York and moved to San Francisco to expand the family business. Strauss imported clothing, fabric, and other dry goods to sell in the small stores in California and other Western states that supplied the expanding communities of gold miners and other settlers. He sold canvas to the miners for tents and wagon covers but what they really needed were pants. Strauss began using the canvas to make pants but the miners complained about the rough fabric so he started using the twilled cotton from Nîmes, France.

Jacob W. Davis Proposes a New Idea for Blue Jeans

In 1872, Jacob W. Davis, a tailor from Reno, Nevada who bought bolts of cloth from Levi Strauss, proposed a partnership. He wanted Strauss to partner with him in manufacturing clothing reinforced with rivets at the points of stress. Strauss accepted and the men went to work experimenting with different fabrics. They found American-made denim to be the ideal fabric for work pants and used it to manufacture their riveted pants.

Patent and Production of the First American Blue Jeans

On May 20, 1873, Davis and Strauss received US patent No. 139,121 for an “Improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings”. The date is now known as the birthday of blue jeans.

Strauss asked Davis to come to San Fransisco where he would oversee the manufacturing of the first riveted “waist-overalls”. The first blue jeans were originally manufactured by seamstresses working out of their homes. In the 1880s Strauss opened his own factory. The small riveted watch pocket was added in the late 1870s. In 1901, Levi Strauss added the back left pocket creating the 5 pocket blue jeans we recognize today. By the 1920s, Levis blue jeans were the top-selling work pants in the United States.

The Popularity of American Blue Jeans Grows

James Dean popularized blue jeans with adolescents in the 1950s when he wore them in the hit movie Rebel without a Cause and by the 1960s, blue jeans were everyday clothing for men and women alike.

The rest, they say, is history.

Levis Jeans are no longer made in the USA. Boo! But since we’re all about made in the USA products here, we’ve found blue jeans that are made in America.

All American Clothing Company

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