Jeans are trousers, a type of garment, typically made from denim or dungaree cloth. Often the term "jeans" refers to a particular style of pants, called "blue jeans," which were invented by Jacob W. Davis in partnership with Levi Strauss & Co. in 1871 and patented by Jacob W. Davis and Levi Strauss on May 20, 1873. Prior to the Levi Strauss patented trousers, the term "blue jeans" had been long in use for various garments (including trousers, overalls, and coats), constructed from blue colored denim. Originally designed for cowboys and miners, jeans became popular in the 1950s among teenagers, especially members of the greaser subculture. Jeans were a common fashion item in the 1960s Hippie subculture and they continued to be popular in the 1970s and 1980s youth subcultures of punk rock and heavy metal. Historic brands include Levi's, Lee, and Wrangler. In the 2010s, jeans remain a popular fashion item, and they come in various fits, including skinny, tapered, slim, straight, boot cut, cigarette bottom, narrow bottom, bell bottom, low waist, anti-fit, and flare. "Distressed" (visibly aged and worn, but still intact and functional) jeans trousers have become increasingly fashionable, making pre-sale "factory distressing" a common feature in commercially sold jeans.
- Origin of jean fabric
- Origin of riveted jeans
- Recent evolution
- Pre shrinking
- Used and distressed looks
- Sandblasting or abrading with sandpaper
- Environmental and humanitarian impact
- Care and wear
- Jeans in the USSR
- Jeans in the law
- Worldwide market for jeans
- Market share shift to activewear
- Distressed jeans
In the 2010s, jeans are a very popular article of casual dress around the world. They come in many styles and colors. However, blue jeans are particularly identified with American culture, especially the Old West. As well, although jeans are mostly known as a popular fashion garment for several decades, they are still worn as protective garments by some people, such as cattle ranch workers and motorcycle riders, due to their high durability as compared to other common fabrics.
Origin of jean fabric
Research on the trade of jean fabric shows that it emerged in the cities of Genoa, Italy, and Nimes, France. Gênes, the French word for Genoa, may be the origin of the word "jeans". In Nimes, weavers tried to reproduce jean but instead developed a similar twill fabric that became known as denim, from de Nimes, meaning "from Nimes". Genoa’s jean was a fustian textile of "medium quality and of reasonable cost", very similar to cotton corduroy for which Genoa was famous, and was "used for work clothes in general". Nimes’s "denim" was coarser, considered higher quality and was used "for over garments such as smocks or overalls". Nearly all Indigo, needed for dyeing, came from indigo bush plantations in India till the late 19th century. It was replaced by indigo synthesis methods developed in Germany.
By the 17th century, jean was a crucial textile for working-class people in Northern Italy. This is seen in a series of genre paintings from around the 17th century attributed to an artist now named The Master of the Blue Jeans. The ten paintings depict impoverished scenes with lower-class figures wearing a fabric that looks like denim. The fabric would have been Genoese jean, which was cheaper. Genre painting came to prominence in late 16th century, and the low-life subject matter in all ten paintings places them among others that portray similar scenes.
Denim is not the only sturdy cotton fabric used for everything from working clothes to fashion items. There is also dungaree.
Dungaree was mentioned for the first time in the 17th century, when it was referred to as cheap, coarse thick cotton cloth, often colored blue but sometimes white, worn by impoverished people in what was then a region of Bombay, India a dockside village called Dongri. This cloth was "dungri" in Hindi. Dungri was exported to England and used for manufacturing of cheap, robust working clothes. It was rumored that men would carry dead dung beetles in their pocket for luck. In English, the word "dungri" became pronounced as "dungaree".
The importance of jean is also shown by the history of textile trade. Genoese sailors used jean to cover and protect their goods on the docks from the weather. During the Republic of Genoa (17th, 18th centuries), sailors exported jeans throughout Europe.
Jean became popular in the United States when Levi Strauss & Co.'s introduced blue jean overalls in 1873.
Origin of riveted jeans
The term jeans appears first in 1795, when a Swiss banker by the name Jean-Gabriel Eynard and his brother Jacques went to Genoa and both were soon heading a flourishing commercial concern. In 1800 Massena's troops entered the town and Jean-Gabriel was entrusted with their supply. In particular he furnished them with uniforms cut from blue cloth called "bleu de Genes" whence later derives the famous garment known worldwide as "blue jeans".
Levi Strauss, as a young man in 1851, went from Germany to New York to join his older brothers who ran a goods store. In 1853, he moved to San Francisco to open his own dry goods business. Jacob Davis was a tailor who often bought bolts of cloth from the Levi Strauss & Co. wholesale house. In 1872, Davis wrote to Strauss asking to partner with him to patent and sell clothing reinforced with rivets. The copper rivets were to reinforce the points of stress, such as pocket corners and at the bottom of the button fly. Levi accepted Davis's offer, and the two men received US patent No. 139,121 for an "Improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings" on May 20, 1873.
Davis and Strauss experimented with different fabrics. An early attempt was brown cotton duck, a bottom-weight fabric. Finding denim a more suitable material for work-pants, they began using it to manufacture their riveted pants. The denim used was produced by an American manufacturer. Popular legend incorrectly states that it was imported from Nimes, France. A popular myth is that Strauss initially sold brown canvas pants to miners, later dyed them blue, turned to using denim, and only after Davis wrote to him, added rivets.
Initially, jeans were simply sturdy trousers worn by factory workers. During this period, men's jeans had the zipper down the front, whereas women's jeans had the zipper down the left side. When Levi Strauss & Co. patented the modern, mass-produced prototype in the year 1873, there were two pockets in the front and one on the back with copper rivets. Later, the jeans were redesigned to today's industry standard of 5 pockets including a little watch pocket and copper rivets.
Fewer jeans were made during World War II, but 'waist overalls' were introduced to the world by US soldiers, who sometimes wore them off duty. By the 1960s, both men's and women's jeans had the zipper down the front. Historic photographs indicate that in the decades before they became a staple of fashion, jeans generally fit quite loosely, much like a pair of bib overalls without the bib. Indeed, until 1960, Levi Strauss called its flagship product "waist overalls" rather than "jeans".
After James Dean popularized them in the movie Rebel Without a Cause, wearing jeans became a symbol of youth rebellion during the 1950s. Because of this, they were sometimes banned in theaters, restaurants and schools.During the 1960s the wearing of jeans became more acceptable, and by the 1970s it had become general fashion in the United States for casual wear.
Michael Belluomo, editor of Sportswear International Magazine, Oct/Nov 1987, P. 45, wrote that in 1965, Limbo, a boutique in the New York East Village, was "the first retailer to wash a new pair of jeans to get a used, worn effect, and the idea became a hit." He continued, "[Limbo] hired East Village artists to embellish the jeans with patches, decals, and other touches, and sold them for $200." In the early 1980s the denim industry introduced the stone-washing technique developed by GWG also known as "Great Western Garment Co." Donald Freeland of Edmonton, Alberta pioneered the method, which helped to bring denim to a larger and more versatile market. Acceptance of jeans continued through the 1980s and 1990s to the point where jeans are, in the first decade of 21st century, a wardrobe staple, with the average North American owning seven pairs. Originally an esoteric fashion choice, in the 2010s jeans may be seen being worn by people of all genders and ages.
Traditionally, jeans were dyed to a blue color using natural indigo dye. Most denim is now dyed using synthetic indigo. Approximately 20 thousand tons of indigo are produced annually for this purpose, though only a few grams of the dye are required for each pair. For other colors of denim other dyes must be used. Currently, jeans are produced in any color that can be achieved with cotton.
For more information on dyeing, refer to denim and the discussion there of using pigment dyes.
In 1962 Levi Strauss introduced pre-shrunk jeans, which did not shrink further after purchase, allowing the consumer to buy his or her correct size. These jeans were known as the 505 regular fit jeans. The 505 are almost identical to the 501s with the exception of the button-fly. The Levi's Corporation also introduced a slim boot-cut fit known as 517 and 527. The difference between the two is the 517s sit at the waist line and the 527s sit below the waist line. Later, Levi's would develop other styles and fits such as the loose, slim, comfort, relaxed, skinny, and a regular fit with a tapered leg.
Used and distressed looks
The used or "acid wash" look is created by means of abrading the jeans and/or treating them with chemicals, such as acryl resin, phenol, a hypochlorite, potassium permanganate, caustic soda, acids etc.
Ripping or distressing of jeans, though also arising naturally as a result of wear and tear, is sometimes deliberately performed by suppliers - with distressed clothing sometimes selling for more than a nondistressed pair. For example, Pucci sold "embellished mid-rise boyfriend jeans" for £600 GBP ($860 USD).
Sandblasting or abrading with sandpaper
Consumers wanting jeans that appear worn can buy jeans that have been specially treated. To give the fabrics the worn look, sandblasting done with chemicals or by adding pumice stone to the washing process or abrading with sandpaper is often done.
Environmental and humanitarian impact
A typical pair of blue jeans consumes 919 gallons (3479 liters) of water during its life cycle. This includes the water to irrigate the cotton crop, manufacture the jeans, and the numerous washes by the consumer.
The production of jeans with a "used look" can be more environmentally damaging than regular jeans, depending on how the waste compounds are processed. Sandblasting and treating with sandpaper has the risk of causing silicosis to the workers, and in Turkey, more than 5,000 textile workers have been stricken with this disease, and 46 people are known to have died. Some companies have announced they are banning the use of sandblasting.
Care and wear
Despite most jeans being "pre-shrunk", they are still sensitive to slight further shrinkage and loss of color from being washed. The Levi Strauss company recommends avoiding washing jeans as much as possible. Carl Chiara, Levi Strauss director of brand and special projects, has a credo: The less you wash your jeans, the better your jeans become. These and other suggestions to avoid washing jeans where possible have encountered criticism. Cory Warren, editor of LS&Co. Unzipped, clarifies in a response to such a criticism:
Our advice is to wash less often, but clearly, you have to judge for yourself what's appropriate. Hot day, dirty job? Wash your jeans. Please! Cold day, office job? Maybe you can wear them twice or more before they go back to the washing machine. Personally, if I wear a pair of jeans to work on Friday—cool climate, office job—I tend to wear them on Saturday. And if Saturday is spent indoors and I'm not spilling food all over myself, I might even wear them on Sunday.
For those who prefer to refrain from washing their jeans there have been suggestions to freeze them in order to kill the germs that cause odor. However, this advice has been disputed as ineffective and replaced with the suggestion of baking them for ten minutes at 250 degrees Fahrenheit. (120 °C).
Jeans in the USSR
In the Soviet Union, jeans were the symbol of the Western way of life. The "jeans fever" in the USSR started 1957, during the World Festival of Youth and Students. According to a 1961 Russian textile dictionary, jeans were initially referred to as a "worker's uniform" (рабочий костюм, rabochii kostyum).
The jeans brand Rokotov and Fainberg is named after the defendants in the Rokotov–Faibishenko case, who were executed for, among other things, trafficking in jeans.
Jeans in the law
Jeans are covered under laws regarding trousers. As well, there have been some notable legal cases involving jeans specifically:
In Rome in 1992, a 45-year-old driving instructor was accused of rape. When he picked up an 18-year-old girl for her first driving lesson, he allegedly raped her for an hour, then told her that if she was to tell anyone he would kill her. Later that night she told her parents and her parents agreed to help her press charges. While the alleged rapist was convicted and sentenced, the Italian Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 1998 because the victim wore tight jeans. It was argued that she must have necessarily had to help her attacker remove her jeans, thus making the act consensual ("because the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them...and by removing the jeans...it was no longer rape but consensual sex"). The Italian Supreme Court stated in its decision "it is a fact of common experience that it is nearly impossible to slip off tight jeans even partly without the active collaboration of the person who is wearing them." This ruling sparked widespread feminist protest. The day after the decision, women in the Italian Parliament protested by wearing jeans and holding placards that read "Jeans: An Alibi for Rape." As a sign of support, the California Senate and Assembly followed suit. Soon Patricia Giggans, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women, (now Peace Over Violence) made Denim Day an annual event. As of 2011 at least 20 U.S. states officially recognize Denim Day in April. Wearing jeans on this day has become an international symbol of protest against erroneous and destructive attitudes about sexual assault. As of 2008 the Italian Supreme Court has overturned their findings, and there is no longer a "denim" defense to the charge of rape.
In 2014, an Indian family court in Mumbai ruled that a husband objecting to his wife wearing a kurta and jeans and forcing her to wear a sari amounts to cruelty inflicted by the husband and can be a ground to seek divorce. The wife was thus granted a divorce on the ground of cruelty as defined under section 27(1)(d) of Special Marriage Act, 1954.
Worldwide market for jeans
North America accounts for 39% of global purchases for jeans, followed by Western Europe at 20%, Japan and Korea at 10% and the rest of the world at 31%.
United States consumers spent more than US$14 billion on jeans in 2004 and US$15 billion in 2005. US consumers bought US$13.8 billion of men's and women's jeans in the year that ended 30 April 2011, according to market-research firm NPD Group.
Market-share shift to activewear
Teens are now buying more fashion gear from Nike and Lululemon over denim classics from brands like Abercrombie, according to a 2014 Piper Jaffray survey on teen spending. Activewear now comprises 28% of teens' apparel purchases, up from 6% in 2008. In 2014, Nike, Lululemon, Under Armour, and Adidas are the most popular brands for athletic apparel among teen consumers. It is likely that the preference for soft, knit trousers will follow this generation as they age, causing a significant shift in spending from blue jeans to athleisure apparel. Fashion retailers have begun to adjust their offerings accordingly. Bloomberg reports that Levi's, which is the world's most iconic denim company, stuck to its core product (denim) instead of adapting to consumer trends. As a result, Levi's sales have dipped from over USD 7 billion to USD 4.8 billion over the years.
John Fiske described the wearing of distressed or ripped jeans as an example of his excorporation concept, which "is the process by which the subordinate make their own culture out of the resources and commodities provided by the dominant system". When wearing ripped jeans or other products beyond their replacement date, one reduces the number of jeans purchased and thereby participation in capitalism.