When tailor Jacob Davis and businessman Levi Strauss received a patent for their new style of work pants in 1873, they started a legacy. They made the first blue jean and started the world-famous brand Levi Strauss & Co. in San Francisco. For the next 140 years, their product evolved – and continues to evolve – in both style and meaning; it has gone from a loose fitting, durable trouser for miners to distressed and skin-tight bottoms worn by the most sought-after supermodels. In between, it was a symbol for cowboys, Hollywood, youth rebellion, and so much more. This weekend, I plan on purchasing a few pairs of jeans for my wardrobe. Why? Because I just dove into a flurry of newspaper articles, regurgitated lists, and the highly recommended book “Jeans: A Cultural History of an American Icon” by James Sullivan, and was moved by what I had learned. I’m curious to see how I can make them my own. **Here, you’ll find some lesser known facts about one of the greatest products and symbols of American culture – the jean.**
At the time, it was referred to as a “Whizit” – an onomatopoetic entry in a company-run contest for its release. This modification was a direct response to the many complaints of field workers who were tired of re-buttoning.
This photo of 125 limited edition Buddy Lee dolls was taken at the Lee Archive Tour exhibit in honor of its 125th anniversary celebration.
As Sullivan notes in his book, this quote from Nabokov’s 1955 novel is a perfect example of Old World intellectuals in their inappropriate affections for the vulgar charms of America. The blue jeans represented temptation and the lower-class before becoming an acceptable fashion statement.