A Century In Review A Decade-By-Decade Social And Historical History of Blue Jeans in America

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History of Blue Jeans in America

Many people are aware of the roots that blue jeans have in America. They are a symbol of everything America is supposed to be: free from the status quo. It is nearly impossible to distinguish social and economic status of any individual wearing a pair of them. They are the invention of Jacob Davis, but were made famous by the entrepreneur Loeb Strauss who later changed his name to Levi. On May 7th, 1873 the patent for them was received from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Jacob Davis had invented the riveted pockets of the blue jeans at the pocket’s stress points for a customer of his pants. The customer would constantly bother Davis over the holes that developed in his pockets. It was this that gave Jacob the inspiration for the riveted pockets. He did not have the $68 at that time to file a patent, however, and wrote to Strauss offering to file it jointly with him in exchange for Strauss paying the patent filing fee.

For the next 25 years while Levi Strauss & Co held the patent rights to blue jeans, they became immensely popular among the working class. They were known for their rugged durability. Right after the exclusive patent rights expired and the invention became public domain, many companies started manufacturing blue jeans. Because in the 19th century they were worn by the working class, they were a symbol of the working man. The wealthier, pampered members of society did not wear blue jeans during this era.

During World War II, blue jeans gained the popularity overseas that they had garnished many years before in America. Foreigners admired the pants worn by American soldiers. The end result was that they were no longer solely American. Europeans and other foreigners could now enjoy the benefits of the rugged denim. Shortly after World War II with jeans now internationally recognized as a durable, comfortable pair of pants, sales skyrocketed.

Jeans were a symbol of rebels during much of the mid-20th century, up until the 1980s. Rebel figures like James Dean in movies wore blue jeans almost exclusively while the older more conservative generation did not. Blue jeans continued their tradition as a symbol of revolution into the 60s and 70s as they were the pants of choice among hippies. Jeans would become more main-stream again in the 1980s.

The 1980s were when designers started creating and labeling their own jeans. It was during this time period that jeans were a symbol of high fashion. Sales for jeans skyrocketed during this decade. They were more accepted at this point than they ever had been. Blue jeans lost popularity in the decade following the 80s as children scoffed at wearing clothing their parents wore. While blue jeans were still worn among kids, they had to be different from the traditional straight down blue denim their parents grew up in. As a result, many jeans manufacturers either had to retool their designs to keep up with the times or face possible bankruptcy.

Blue jeans continue to be worn today and still cloak the status of the wearer. Their ruggedness and durability appeal to both the poor and rich alike. Currently jeans are making a fashion comeback and the traditional jeans manufacturers have fragmented as a result of the past two decades filling various niches. Whatever path blue jeans may take, their roots are entrenched in American soil.

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