Do you know your denim?
- North America accounts for 39% of global purchases for jeans.
- Americans spent more than $14 billion on jeans in 2004 and $15 billion in 2005.
- About 450 million jeans are sold in U.S.A alone each year.
- One bale of cotton can be used to produce 225 pairs of denim jeans.
- It is rumored that the average American owns seven pairs of jeans.
How many pairs of jeans do you own? Jeans have become an absolute staple to our wardrobes, with as many varieties, colors, washes, and finishes as you can count. At Gus Mayer, we have done our research to bring you the history of this classic fashion piece.
The History of Denim:
As with many things in the world of fashion, the story of jeans begins in Italy. During the 1800s, the city of Genoa, Italy, was famous for its cotton corduroy, called either “jean” or “jeane.” The jeans were exported throughout Europe, and in the French city of Nimes, weavers tried to reproduce the fabric. With little success in the beginning, they eventually developed another twill fabric that became known as denim, literally “de Nimes”.
Jeans arrived in the United States when Levi Strauss emigrated from Germany to New York in 1851. Strauss moved to San Francisco in 1853 to establish his own dry goods business and was approached by tailor Jacob Davis in 1872. Davis wrote to Levi asking for a partnership to patent and sell clothing reinforced with copper rivets at points of stress, such as on the pocket corners and at the bottom of the button fly. After Levi accepted Davis’s offer, the two men received U.S. Patent 139,121, for an “Improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings,” on May 20, 1873. The men found denim as a more suitable material for manufacturing their riveted work pants and received the fabric from an American textile manufacturer, although legend states the denim was from Nimes, France.
Jeans in the 20th century.
Initially, jeans were simply sturdy trousers worn by factory workers. Men’s jeans had the zipper down the front, whereas women’s jeans had the zipper down the left side. Fewer jeans were made during World War II, but ‘waist overalls’ were introduced by American soldiers, who sometimes wore them when they were off duty.
After James Dean popularized them in the 1950s movie Rebel Without a Cause, wearing jeans became a symbol of youth rebellion. Because of this, they were sometimes banned in theaters, restaurants and schools. During the 1960s, jeans became more acceptable, and both men’s and women’s jeans had the zipper down the front.
In the 1970s, however, fashion finally caught on and decided to embrace the trend. Hippie flare captured the nation. Dress codes became much more relaxed, and, for the first time, pre-wash was introduced to the market along with brand new cuts and treatments like flares, bell-bottoms, dungarees, and bibs. By the end of the decade, the first designer jeans were walking down the most exclusive runways of New York Fashion Week
The trend toward designer only grew in the ’80s as European companies like Armani got into the game. Europeans gave new twists to the American Classic, playing around with fabric blends, fits, and treatments. Acid wash, stone wash, ripped, torn, shredded, peg-legged, cuffed, rolled, stained, painted…the first ever all-out fashion-industry denim craze truly exploded in the 1980s.
In the mid to late 90’s, Alexander McQueen created a low-rise collection that crystallized looks for Britney Spears and millions of girls like her. Guys, on the other hand, adopted wide-legged baggy jeans from rave, skate, and hip-hop looks that began to consume pop culture through films like Clueless and Kids.
By 2000, denim was once again sitting atop the throne of fashion and marked by special attention to detail. Designer and custom-made jeans pushed further than ever before into the world of possibility, popping up in the least expected of places from red carpet looks to CEO boardrooms. The end of the decade was marked by the “skinny-jean” phenomenon, once again showing how a generation chooses to define themselves by the jeans they wear.
From faded denim to stonewash, denim jeans have gone through quite the fashion evolution over the past century. This fall, be on the lookout for basic denim washes with subtle details, such as distressed places and in skinny and boot cut styles. Gus Mayer carries your favorite denim brands such as Mother, DL 1961, Genetic, Blank, NYDJ, and Christopher blue, among others.
We want to help you find the best denim that suits your personality. Find your perfect style and shape with our style experts at Gus Mayer today!