Discover the evolution of denim here.
First, let us explain the difference between jeans and denim, both born in the mid-centuries, respectively in Genoa (Italy) and Nîmes (France). It’s not completely clear if jeans follow denim or otherwise, but there’s no question that denim is a rough fabric originally produced in Nîmes (denim is a derivation of ‘de Nîmes’) and made from 100 % cotton twill. The fabric was mainly used as work clothes for shepherds in Nîmes and its environs. Jeans, for their part, was founded in Genoa - which explains its name, a derivative of de Gênes (French for Genoa) – and was used for fine trousers and topcoats for office workers.
Anyhow, by 1872, as a response to one of his customer’s question to make a pair of work trousers for her husband that wouldn’t fall apart, the Latvian-born American tailor Jacob Davis had improved the strength of the denim pants by adding metal rivets.
As he couldn’t pay for the patent application of the metal rivet himself, he approached Levi Strauss, a successful dry goods salesman from whom he had purchased the cloth to make those riveted pants. They decided to partner up and only one year later, on 20 May 1873, the duo received a U.S. patent on putting rivets in men’s work pants.
The blue jeans – in that time still known as waist overalls - became a huge success among the coal miners in California who adopted them as their unofficial uniform. By the 1920s, Levi’s® Waist Overalls were the leading product in men’s work pants in the Western states. Although these overalls were traditionally made with jeans, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis chose to make their pants from the comfortable and durable denim fabric. Nevertheless, they were still referred to as jeans pants.
By the 1930s, in the United States, cowboys had also discovered the blue jeans and thanks to the popular Western movies, the pants have been introduced to the general public. Very soon, every boy and man wanted to have a pair of jeans themselves, just as their tough western movie heroes. Wearing jeans could now be used to make a statement of rebellion.
In 1934, Levi's released the first pair of women’s jeans and by the seventies, jeans became more of a fashion item symbolizing a care-free generation. The trousers were bell-bottomed and often decorated with beads, paint and embroidery. In the eighties, the rock scene wore jeans with acid wash, rips and holes while in the nineties, jeans were also about a neat and classic look. Basically, jeans reached every social class by that time.
And that hasn’t changed a bit. Today, jeans have conquered the world and is an essential fashion item to be found in every man’s, woman’s and kid’s wardrobe. And it seems that their popularity will continue far into the next century. As an industrial partner in sustainable jeans wear, our main concern nowadays is to maintain the manufacturing process of this durable fast fashion product as ecological and sustainable as possible using innovative techniques that require less water and chemicals to produce your favourite pair of jeans.