The Day Blue Jeans Were Born — Celebrating Levi Strauss & Denim

Levi Strauss jeans history

A historic Levi Strauss ad painted on the side of a building in Jacksonville, Oregon

I was just scanning through some things and saw this bit of history from Cotton Inc:

On May 20, 1873, an American icon was born when Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis were given a patent for their copper rivet fasteners for denim trousers. The blue jean has since secured its place in American culture and in world fashion as a “go to” garment. Changing fashion styles and attitudes altered the look of the blue jean over time, but until recently, the blue jean had remained true blue to its cotton origins. The recent influx of man-made fibers into blue jeans is not a good fit for many consumers, and could affect the care, wear and expected five-year longevity of their beloved blue jeans.

Seriously? Today is the birthday of blue jeans? And I’m stuck here wearing a sundress? Granted, I have on a denim jacket but wow, am I bummed I didn’t know this when I got dressed this morning.

The history of denim as being all cotton, comfortable and crazy durable earned it a spot quickly with folks who work hard physically like farmers and pioneers of the west. Denim and the beloved American blue jeans have continued to catch on and now you can find really expensive fashion jeans or cheaper work cuts. And when traveling in some foreign countries, I have found taking someone a pair of 501s is the fastest way to their heart!

I have to say, while the addition of a small amount of spandex or something to cotton to help jeans keep their shape, Cotton Inc hits the nail on the head when it comes to denim that includes higher percentages of man-made fibers.

CI’s Kim Kitchings says “Consumers love denim. We know from our Lifestyle Monitor data that U.S. consumers own an average of seven denim items and wear jeans an average of four days a week. We also know that 60% of consumers would pay a little extra to get more cotton back into those jeans.”

I definitely have more denim pieces in my wardrobe than the average Joe, but I can tell you the jeans I have with more synthetic fibers… they don’t come out of the closet much. They are not as comfortable, they don’t breathe with my body and they just don’t have that comfy feeling my other jeans do. I tried something different in buying one or two pair and I didn’t like it. My cotton awareness and prioritization though is unique according to CI:

Some fault may actually lie with the consumers and what Kitchings calls “label apathy.” “Today’s consumers have been wearing jeans most of their lives and are familiar with how to care for them,” says Kitchings. “The rules change when there are higher percentages of one or more man-made fibers.” Kitchings points to Lifestyle Monitor™ data that reveal less than half of consumers check the fiber content or laundry care labels when purchasing a garment.

So, I have to tell you, take the time to read labels and think about what’s on them. You may also want to follow these tips from CI’s Vikki Martin who says, “Always check the labels for fiber content information and care instructions; knowing what you’re getting and how to care for it will help extend the life of your jeans or any garment.”

Martin has the following tips on proper denim care:

• Before laundering, always check the sewn-in tag for specific care instructions.

• Invest in quality detergent to help extend the life of denim jeans.

• To preserve the color of denim jeans (especially dark washes), turn them inside out before laundering, then line dry.

• If denim jeans are overly stiff, soak them overnight in a washing machine with water and a cupful of fabric softener. Run the load normally the next morning.

• If denim jeans are not dirty but need a boost: wet them with water, let them spin in the washer, and then tumble or line dry.

You can see the original release Majority of Consumers Bothered By Man-made Fibers in Their Denim on the Cotton Incorporated website.

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About Janice Person

I'm Janice & this blog is about my passions -- photography, travel, agriculture & whatever else comes to mind. Putting all those things together is intriguing to me…. I can spend a lot of time soaking it up! It's almost always a colorful adventure!

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6 Responses to The Day Blue Jeans Were Born — Celebrating Levi Strauss & Denim

  1. Valerie Plagge May 20, 2014 at 4:35 pm #

    Happy Birthday Blue Jeans! I’m proud to be wearing a pair today (and pretty much everyday!). I’ll have to start checking my blue jean labels. I’m all for supporting today’s cotton farmers!

  2. Robert Ratliff May 22, 2014 at 12:23 am #

    Twenty years ago, when I was employed with BASF in the Research Triangle Park of North Carolina whenever business people from the BASF headquarters in Germany would visit in the USA, often visitors would ask us locals to take them to the local K-Mart or Walmart to buy blue jeans, typically after night of drinking and dining at a fine restaurant.

    On one occasion we arrived about 9:00 pm and the store would close at 9:30 pm, thus we had to shop fast to buy the jeans.

    However, Ludwigshafen, we have a problem.
    The jeans all have English measurements
    Now, panic ensues.

    We rush outside to find a pay phone, (no cell phones twenty years ago) to make an overseas phone call to Germany to wake someone at 3:00 am local time to assist in translating their metric measurements for tight fitting jeans into equivalent English measurements.

    With the added knowledge of measurements, we bribe the store manager — $100 cash –to allow us complete our shopping before closing the store.

    Additionally, the person from Germany scouted the sales staff for someone near the size of his wife and bribed her — $100 cash — to assist him in selecting the proper size, including trying on jeans as a proxy for his wife.

    Again, true stories easily exceed anyone’s possible fiction.
    ..

    • Janice Person May 22, 2014 at 2:52 pm #

      The beauty of Google and smartphones… so underappreciated by youth!

  3. DebbieLB May 22, 2014 at 8:02 am #

    What would America be like without blue jeans?

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