By Judith Rasband, AICI CIM and Dani Slaugh, Conselle Affiliate
Little did young Levi Strauss know when he came west during the California gold rush, that he would be responsible for creating one of the longest-lasting and most distinctive American contributions to the world of fashion. He brought with him a wagonload of denim fabric to be made into tents for the miners, but he met with little success at tent making. A very clever fellow, he then decided to make pants for the miners out of his very sturdy cotton material. Copper rivets were added at points of stress to strengthen the pockets and enable miners to carry ore samples. The so-called “Levis” were an immediate success and caught on elsewhere because of their durability and suitability to the rugged lifestyle of the Western United States.
A new name was needed to identify the pant style when made by manufacturers other than the Levi Strauss Co. And so they became known as “jeans,” a logical adaptation for the name of the cloth from which they are made. According to Webster, “Jeans” is a durable cotton cloth in a twill weave, used for work clothes. The fabric was first made in Genoa (Genes), Italy and used for trousers or overalls in solid colors and stripes. It was similar to Levi’s denim, a serge or twill seave cloth, made in Nimes, France – hence, deNimes, or denim.
Today, jeans may be seen not only in the mines, but in the backyard, in the classroom, the shopping malls, in restaurants and in theaters. They are worn by people all over the world. And last time I checked, most of those people are not wearing them to work hard labor. No, we’re not panning for gold in the river, so why do we want to look like we are? Jeans were great for their original purpose, but now that we have cleaner living conditions, it may be time to reconsider the jeans uniform that we all wear. So many of us would benefit from more variety in our wardrobes. In reality, jeans fit few bodies, get stuck in the crotch, and bag in the bottom. Our closets are full of enough unwearable jeans that most of us could make our own tent. Maybe it’s time to consider the fashion statement we’re really making. Read our June Newsletter for a young woman’s take on jeans in the closet.