Thursday May 20, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Blue Jeans
On this Day:
In 1873, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis patented the first blue jeans with copper rivets.
Jeans are a type of pants or trousers, typically made from denim or dungaree cloth. Often the term “jeans” refers to a particular style of trousers, called “blue jeans”, which were invented by Jacob W. Davis in partnership with Levi Strauss & Co. in 1871 and patented by Jacob W. Davis and Levi Strauss on May 20, 1873. Prior to the Levi Strauss patented trousers, the term “blue jeans” had been long in use for various garments (including trousers, overalls, and coats), constructed from blue-colored denim.
“Jean” also references a (historic) type of sturdy cloth commonly made with a cotton warp and wool weft (also known as “Virginia cloth”). Jean cloth can be entirely cotton as well, similar to denim. Originally designed for miners, modern jeans were popularized as casual wear by Marlon Brando and James Dean in their 1950s films, particularly The Wild One and Rebel Without a Cause, leading to the fabric becoming a symbol of rebellion among teenagers, especially members of the greaser subculture. From the 1960s onwards, jeans became common among various youth subcultures and subsequently young members of the general population. Nowadays, they are one of the most popular types of specialty trousers in Western culture. Historic brands include Levi’s, Lee, and Wrangler.
The term jeans appeared 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”.
Levi Strauss, as a young man in 1851, went from Germany to New York to join his older brothers who ran a goods store. In 1853, he moved to San Francisco to open his own dry goods business. Jacob Davis was a tailor who often bought bolts of cloth from the Levi Strauss & Co. wholesale house. In 1872, Davis wrote to Strauss asking to partner with him to patent and sell clothing reinforced with rivets. The copper rivets were to reinforce the points of stress, such as pocket corners and at the bottom of the button fly. Strauss accepted Davis’s offer, and the two men received US patent No. 139,121 for an “Improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings” on May 20, 1873.
Davis and Strauss experimented with different fabrics. An early attempt was brown cotton duck, a bottom-weight fabric. Finding denim a more suitable material for work-pants, they began using it to manufacture their riveted pants. The denim used was produced by an American manufacturer. Popular legend incorrectly states that it was imported from Nimes, France. A popular myth is that Strauss initially sold brown canvas pants to miners, later dyed them blue, turned to using denim, and only after Davis wrote to him, added rivets.
Initially, Strauss’s jeans were simply sturdy trousers worn by factory workers, miners, farmers, and cattlemen throughout the North American West. During this period, men’s jeans had the fly down the front, whereas women’s jeans had the fly down the left side. When Levi Strauss & Co. patented the modern, mass-produced prototype in the year 1873, there were two pockets in the front and one on the back right with copper rivets. The small riveted watch pocket was first added by Levi Strauss to their jeans in the late 1870s.
In 1901 Levi Strauss added the back left pocket to their 501 model. This created the now familiar and industry standard five pocket configuration with two large pockets and small watch pocket in front with two pockets on the rear.
Fewer jeans were made during World War II, but ‘waist overalls’ were introduced to the world by US soldiers, who sometimes wore them off duty. By the 1960s, both men’s and women’s jeans had the zipper down the front. Historic photographs indicate that in the decades before they became a staple of fashion, jeans generally fit quite loosely, much like a pair of bib overalls without the bib. Indeed, until 1960, Levi Strauss called its flagship product “waist overalls” rather than “jeans”.
After James Dean popularized them in the movie Rebel Without a Cause, wearing jeans became a symbol of youth rebellion during the 1950s. During the 1960s the wearing of jeans became more acceptable, and by the 1970s it had become general fashion in the United States for casual wear. In Japan in 1977, a professor of Osaka University Philip Karl Pehda chastised a female student wearing jeans in the classroom. Then he was protested by the students, and a controversy arose in the country.
Examples of intentional denim distressing strictly to make them more fashionable can be seen as early as 1935 in Vogue’s June issue. Michael Belluomo, editor of Sportswear International Magazine, Oct/Nov 1987, P. 45, wrote that in 1965, Limbo, a boutique in the New York East Village, was “the first retailer to wash a new pair of jeans to get a used, worn effect, and the idea became a hit.” He continued, “[Limbo] hired East Village artists to embellish the jeans with patches, decals, and other touches, and sold them for $200.” In the early 1980s the denim industry introduced the stone-washing technique developed by GWG also known as “Great Western Garment Co.” Donald Freeland of Edmonton, Alberta pioneered the method, which helped to bring denim to a larger and more versatile market. Acceptance of jeans continued through the 1980s and 1990s. Originally an esoteric fashion choice, in the 2010s jeans may be seen being worn by men and women of all ages (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
Did you hear about the French man who always wore denim? His name was Jean Jaquette.
Second, a Song:
Joshua Ryan Owen (born August 28, 1981), known professionally as Jake Owen, is an American country music singer, songwriter and actor. Signed to RCA Nashville in 2006, he released his debut studio album, Startin’ with Me, that year. This album produced three singles, all of which reached top 20 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart: his debut single “Yee Haw”, “Startin’ with Me”, and “Something About a Woman”. His second studio album, 2009’s Easy Does It, accounted for three more singles: “Don’t Think I Can’t Love You”, “Eight Second Ride”, and “Tell Me”. In September 2011, Owen achieved his first number one hit on the country charts with the title track to his third studio album Barefoot Blue Jean Night, as did with “Alone with You”, “The One That Got Away”, and “Anywhere with You”. His fourth studio album, Days of Gold, produced two singles with its title track, which broke the top 20 in 2013, and the number one single “Beachin'”.
Owen has also toured as an opening act for several other country artists, including Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Little Big Town, Sugarland, Keith Urban, and Jason Aldean.
Barefoot Blue Jean Night is the third studio album by American country music artist Jake Owen. It was released on August 30, 2011 via RCA Records Nashville. The album’s first single, “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” is the fastest-rising single of Owen’s career, as well as his first Number One hit.
Michael Sudhalter of Country Standard Time gave the album a positive review. He thought that the album had “plenty of versatility” and that its title track is “just right for the summer time”. Similarly, Bobby Peacock of Roughstock thought that the album’s songs had several overlapping themes and that Owen “has truly put out an album that he should be proud of”, giving it four-and-a-half stars out of five. In 2017, Billboard contributor Chuck Dauphin placed three tracks from the album on his top 10 list of Owen’s best songs: “Alone with You” at number one, the title track at number two and “Anywhere with You” at number ten (per Wikipedia).
Here is Jake Owen performing Barefoot Blue Jean Night. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“Nothing is more alluring to a man than a woman who looks good in her jeans.” – Nina Garcia
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky