The history of jeans goes as far back as the 16th century when sailors in Genoa (Italy) wore a material that eventually became the material used in jeans. The word ‘jean’ derives from the name of the Italian port city Genoa, as it was a custom to name a material after its place of origin. By the late 16th century, jean material was already produced in Lancashire, England.
It was the California Gold Rush of 1849 that started the evolution of American trousers that would one day become blue jeans. The gold miners wanted clothes that were strong and did not tear easily. The person who suggested an appropriate type of clothing was a German businessman Levi Strauss, who had moved to America. Levi Strauss sold many different things, but his main product was a tough canvas material used for tents and wagon covers. Understanding the urgent need of the gold miners Levi Strauss decided to make trousers out of the tough canvas he was selling. The miners liked the new ‘working’ trousers, though they were uncomfortable to wear as the material was too rough.
To improve the trousers for miners, Levi Strauss began looking for a different material and soon he found a suitable one in France. The material was called ‘serge de Nimes’. American just called it ‘de Nimes’, and this name soon became its short form ‘denim’. Denim was a bit lighter and softer than the material Levi Strauss used for his working trousers. It was very strong and did not wear out quickly, even after many washes. The trousers made of denim became quite popular among the miners.
The only problem was that original denim was almost white and the trousers got dirty as soon as the miners started working! For that reason Levi Strauss decided to use coloured denim, and he chose dark blue. In 1873 he began to make dark blue denim trousers with metal fasteners to make them stronger. This was a radical new idea and ‘Blue jeans’ had arrived!
Levi's jeans were so popular, that his company got bigger and bigger. Other firms were making blue jeans too. Miners liked them, but so did cowboys and other working men.
Levi’s jeans were work trousers. Male workers wore them all the time but a gentleman would not even think of wearing jeans. Things changed when western movies became popular. All the cowboys wore jeans and people thought they looked heroic, attractive and cool. Also jeans were greatly popularized in Europe by American off-duty soldiers who wore them during World War II. They made jeans seem like casual American trousers, a symbol of the American lifestyle.
In the 2000's, the sale of classic blue jeans stopped growing. Young people were not particularly interested in traditional jeans styles, mainly because of their parents, who adored jeans. Since no teenager would wear the clothes their parents were wearing, the latest generation of youth turned to other fabrics and styles. They still wear denim, but it had to be in new cuts, shapes and styles.