Sunday, February 8, 2015

LEVI'S--The Real Thing

 Who doesn't love a good pair of jeans? Americans, especially, have a great love of jeans, even though they might not be "the real thing."
In this case, authentic jeans today are called Levi's, named for the man who first created them.

LEVI STRAUSS (1829-1902)
Before Levi Strauss made his first pair in the middle of the Nineteenth Century, Genovese sailors made pants from a kind of serge, a strong material made from wool. By the 1700s, denim was made from wool and cotton. Later, sturdy pants were made solely from cotton.

California's gold rush economic boom was in full swing when the immigrant from Bavaria came to San Francisco in 1850. His goal was the same as all others--strike it rich in the gold mines.

Trained as a tailor, however, he instead planned to manufacture tents and wagon covers for the Forty-niners, but he failed to find a market for them.

Instead, he tried making durable pants from the stout canvas. The pants became a popular item for miners who needed clothing that would withstand the rigors of mining for gold. He sold them as fast as he could make them.

He soon switched from canvas to a heavy blue denim material call genes in France, which became "jeans" in America.

The "blue" in blue jeans came from the indigo plant. Blue jean manufacturers imported the dye from India until the twentieth century, when a synthetic indigo was developed.
Original Levi's did not have rivets to reinforce pockets and stress points. Another tailor by the name of Jacob Davis in Reno, Nevada invented riveted pants when a miner complained that the regular pants' pockets were not rugged enough to hold his mining tools.

Strauss and Davis met, and Davis allowed Strauss the use of his rivet idea. As Davis did not have the money for the necessary paperwork, he suggested that Strauss provide the funds so the two men would own the patent together.

The patent was signed on May 20, 1873.

Strauss brought Davis to San Francisco where they employed seamstresses working out of their homes. By the 1880s, Strauss opened his own factory.

The famous 501 brand jean was originally called XX.
It became the bestseller and the company grew quickly.

Today, jeans are worn by men and women around the world.
Levi's have become not only an emblem of the American West
but an emissary of the Western lifestyle.
Levi's are available as: Straight, Slim, Skinny, Relaxed, and Boot Cut.
Also as:
501's Original Fit
501's Shrink-to-Fit
Other variations of the "500" label.
Various Shades of Blue

Today, at all major outlet malls, such as Tanger Outlet in San Marcos, Texas, the Levi's brand has been placed on jackets, sweaters, shirts, and shorts.

Levi Strauss-Biography
klru-"The West"
James Yeary-Photo



  1. Love my jeans. An add on to your post-I had always heard that the men were complaining to Mr. Levi regarding the placement of some of the rivets. He never understood until he squatted in front of a fire and then he knew soon enough and changed them :)

  2. They certainly provide the best fit of all the major brands, but at thirty dollars a pop, I can't afford them. I have to opt for cheaper off-brands. Never did understand the whole stone-washed and pre-torn fad. If I wanted holes in my jeans, I have the patience to wear them until they get that way on their own. By that time, I'm ready to throw them away, lol.

  3. Always interesting to learn more about historic clothing. I love jeans but for my own, don't pay much attention to the brand. The cowboys I know prefer Wranglers these days :)

  4. Denise--I'm using my imagination here! What a funny story about Mr. Strauss learning first hand where those rivets should...and should
    Thanks for that tidbit.

  5. JD--Levi's are a little expensive, and Levi's won't allow some stores to put them on sale.
    I agree, and my husband, who lives in jeans, wonders at that fad, too. As a child of the depression, he doesn't understand why anyone would CHOOSE to look ragged. He sees jeans as something to never give away--no matter what.

  6. Rain--you're right about the Wranglers. My husband loves Levi's but yes, he has a few pairs of Wranglers, too, and loves those as well. There's nothing finer than a cowboy wearing jeans with boots.

  7. What an interesting post today, Celia. I used to detest jeans but now I love them. I particularly love the varied colors that are avilable. Yes, I know, a true jean's fan wouldn't be caught dead in anything but blue jeans, but my favorite is black.

  8. I knew none of the history behind Levi jeans, so your blog was all news hot off the press for me. The ways in which people have found their fortunes is so amazing to me. Do you ever think to yourself, "I wish I had done that?" LOL Loved your blog, Celia.

  9. Celia, great details about Levi Strauss! I've read other articles about him but never heard of his association with David until now. Thanks for sharing your research!

  10. Love jeans, but mine aren't Levis. Still, Strauss started the trend and I'm grateful to him.

  11. Linda--I call anything made from denim or a blend of denim--such as the stretch ones--jeans. They're all jeans to me, too. Only an aficionado of "real" jeans--like you know who--knows the exact difference.
    And the real Levi's do now come in a black..authentic Levi's black blue jeans. I know. It's odd.

  12. I think most inventions or creations were caused by happenstance. The opportunity arose and some bright person grabbed on.
    I'm glad you learned something new. I knew Levi's had those rivets, but never once wondered why. So, I learned something, too, that I had not thought of.
    Sure..haven't we all sais--why didn't I thing of that?

  13. Nothing like a good pair of jeans. :) Levi's had some great ads, too, in the early years.

  14. Lyn--Me, too. Learning about Davis was new to me. Thanks for stopping by.

  15. Caroline--I don't buy Levi's or Wranglers...not any more. I don't like the zipper or the waistband. Those made by some clothing manufacturer that are stretch and have a flat front , with a bit of elastic in the back with skinny legs suit me best.
    But my husband sure does love The Real Thing.

  16. Kirsten--I wish I could remember the early ads. But I don't. Thanks for reading about Levi's.

  17. What an amazing accounting, Celia. They found a need and filled it. Great success story and we all benefit from it. :)

  18. Paisley--yes, I'm sure that's how many people made their fortunes in those wild days. I just finished a romance--that didn't have much romance in it, but it was interesting anyway--but the woman went to San Francisco to help as a doctor, but ended up learning how to make "meat or apple pasties" that could be held in one hand to eat. The miners bought them by the bucket full..she had to hire women to help her cook..I think she ended up opening a restaurant, too. And the man in the story finally came around and they all lives happily ever after.
    What I like about it was that she didn't wait around for him to take care of her--she did what she had to do.
    Thanks for you comment!

  19. Last year I too was wondering about where and how did jeans/Levi's come about and read up on it. Quite fascinating how it all it evolved. Who would've ever thunk? From wagon canvas and tents to jeans. The man was quite ingenious. Enjoyed reading this again.
    And yes, don't we all just love those cowboys in their Levi's?

  20. Beverly--funny you had just researched Levi's. Brilliant minds run in the same course, I guess. I'd tried to write this post several times, and each time I'd think of something else I'd rather do.
    He was a true pioneer of a kind--one who made clothing that these new miners needed but couldn't buy.
    Thanks for the comment...


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