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History of Blue Jeans in America
Many people are aware of the roots that blue jeans have in America. They are a symbol of everything America is supposed to be: free from the status quo. It is almost impossible to distinguish between the social and economic status of an individual who carries a pair of them. They are the invention of Jacob Davis, but were made famous by the entrepreneur Loeb Strauss, who later changed his name to Levi. On May 7, 1873, the patent for them was received from the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Jacob Davis had invented the riveted pockets on the blue jeans at the pocket stress points for a customer of his trousers. The customer would constantly pester Davis about the holes that developed in his pockets. This is what gave Jacob the inspiration for the riveted pockets. However, he did not have the $68 at the time to file a patent, and wrote to Strauss offering to file it with him in exchange for Strauss paying the patent application fee.
For the next 25 years, while Levi Strauss & Co held the patent rights to blue jeans, they became immensely popular among the working class. They were known for their robust durability. Right after the exclusive patent rights expired and the invention became public domain, many companies started manufacturing blue jeans. Because they were worn by the working class in the 19th century, they were a symbol of the working man. The wealthier, pampered members of society did not wear blue jeans in this era.
During World War II, blue jeans achieved the popularity overseas that they had garnered many years before in America. Foreigners admired the pants worn by American soldiers. The end result was that they were no longer exclusively American. Europeans and other foreigners could now enjoy the benefits of the sturdy denim. Soon after World War II, with jeans now internationally recognized as a pair of durable, comfortable pants, sales skyrocketed.
Jeans were a symbol of rebels for most of the mid-20th century, until the 1980s. Rebel figures like James Dean in movies almost exclusively wore blue jeans, while the older, more conservative generation did not. Blue jeans continued their tradition as a symbol of revolution into the 60s and 70s when they were the pants of choice among hippies. Jeans would become more mainstream again in the 1980s.
In the 1980s, designers began to create and label their own jeans. It was during this period that jeans were a symbol of high fashion. Sales of jeans skyrocketed during this decade. They were more accepted at this time than they had ever been. Blue jeans lost popularity in the decade after the 80s when kids scoffed at wearing clothes their parents wore. While blue jeans were still worn among children, they had to be different from the traditional, straight-down blue denim their parents grew up wearing. As a result, many jeans manufacturers either had to retool their designs to keep up with the times or face a possible bankruptcy.
Blue jeans are still worn today and still cover the status of the wearer. Their robustness and durability appeal to both the poor and the rich. Currently, jeans are making a fashion comeback and the traditional jeans manufacturers are fragmented as a result of the last two decades filling different niches. Whatever path blue jeans may take, their roots are rooted in American soil.
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