Levi Strauss: The History of Denim April 19 2022

Denim is a wonderful, wonderful thing.  What makes you feel better than a great pair of jeans? Do you know the role Levi Strass played in the history of denim? First, we have Strass to thank for the beginnings of the current obsession with denim back in the gold rush days. Second, we have him to thank for the rivet, used to keep jeans from ripping. But his inspiration really came from the Navy sailors of Genoa way back in the sixteenth century.

Strauss came to New York from Germany in the early 1850s to join his brother, who ran a dry good store. Several years later, Strauss moved to San Francisco to establish his own dry goods business—through his business, he often sold bolts of cloth to Jacob Davis, a local tailor. In 1872 David asked Strauss to partner with him in developing clothing reinforced with rivets, which were used to strengthen areas of stress in garments. In 1873 the two men received their patent, and they began experimenting with different fabrics before settling on denim as the perfect medium.

A Pair of Over 100 Year Old Levi Strauss Denim that sold on eBay for $17,000 a few years ago.

Denim was first worn by the American working class, but then became more of a pop culture symbol in the mid-twentieth century. By the 1970s jeans were truly an established part of fashion trends. The 1980s brought about so-called “designer” jeans, and suddenly denim has become so big and so popular it was even present on the catwalk. Denim—particularly in the form of jeans—is one of the most universally worn and owned fashion pieces. Think about it—working professionals wear jeans, Presidents wear jeans, celebrities wear jeans, children wear jeans, retirees wear jeans, CEOs wear jeans, everyone wears jeans (except maybe my grandmother, who reportedly only wore jeans once in her life—but that’s a different story for a different day). It’s such a universal staple with such a huge range of styles and silhouettes, prices and colors. There are jeans to match every mood, perfect every outfit, and be suitable for any project. And let’s face it—everyone looks forward to Casual Friday just to they can slip on their favorite pair. Long live denim!

Vintage Levi Strauss Ad

written by Heather Cox for Rice and Beans Vintage