Levi Jeans

Levi Strauss was a Jewish German immigrant who came from Bavaria to New York in 1851 with his mother and sisters to join his two older brothers, who owned J Strauss Brother &; Co, a wholesale dry goods business. A few years later in 1853, Strauss chased the Gold Rush glory to San Francisco where he set up and ran the West Coast branch of his brothers’ company renaming it Levi Strauss &; CO. Strauss started off selling fine imported goods like tools, tents, linens, clothing, combs, purses, and handkerchiefs. Strauss not only targeted the rich people of San Francisco as clients, but the miners in search of riches as well.

In 1873, Strauss partnered with one of his long term and loyal customers, Jacob Davis, to manufacture and sell a new item: Denim pants. Davis was a tailor from Nevada who had a good reputation for making durable pants for his working clients. Davis came up with the idea to use a copper rivet at the stress point of a tough material to make a pair of sturdy work pants for gold miners. The duo chose to use denim because it was known to very strong and did not wear quickly in spite of many washes. After receiving a patent from the US government for “an improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings”, the pair started producing this works pant which were called jeans.

Early pairs of Levis were called “waist overalls” because they came equipped with a set of brown canvas duck fabric that went over the soldiers and connected to the front and the back of the pant. this was to hold the pants up while the men who wore them were hard at work. However men often found that these strapped would slide off their soldiers and became an inconvenience. After only a few years the straps were dropped from the Levi brand.

By the 1920’s their company had become one of the most successful workman’s clothing provider in America. by the 1950’s Levi expanded his company to sell nationally and reached out to more than just workers. He created a new pant made out of the jean material which were light weight, more comfortable, and used not only in work but in the every day life. By this time other companies like Wrangler began to pop up selling a similar product with its own signature fit. After WWII jeans boomed as celebrities started to wear them, making them an icon for the 50’s generation. in the 60’s and 70’s jeans were embraced by the “hippy movement” as the trend shaped into a personalization and embellishment of a pair of jeans with patches and other decorative materials. Jeans would soon become a sign of independence and western decadence and would be tied into the anti-communist movement. in the 70’s jeans began to target the youth by creating various styles like bell bottoms, hip huggers, and pre washed jeans. in the 80’s the term “designer jeans” emerged transforming the jean forever. Jeans became high fashion when designers like Calvin Klein, Sergio Valente, and Jordache get involved creating a tighter, butt hugging, slimmer and sexier pair. The 90’s experience a downfall in popularity with innovations like khakis, but the jean would forever remain in American society and culture, as well as world culture.

At the beginning Levis were for the working man and showed hard work and determination. However they quickly grew in America implanting themselves as part of our culture. Currently it would be safe to say that nearly every American owns, adores, and loves a pair of jeans whether they be Levi, designer, or Wrangler.

Image of gold miners wearing overalls

Image of gold miners wearing overalls

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About caitlineichlin

History major at California State University San Marcos and aspiring high school history teacher.
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