Saturday, 8 December 2012

Sepia Saturday 155; Blue and famous;

In 1873 Levi Strauss and tailor Jacob Davis received a U.S. patent to make the first riveted men's work
pants out of denim: the first blue jeans.


Jacob Davis, a Jewish emigrant from Latvia, was a tailor who frequently purchased bolts of cloth made from hemp from Levi Strauss & Co.'s wholesale house. After one of Davis' customers kept purchasing cloth to reinforce torn pants, he had an idea to use copper rivets to reinforce the points of strain, such as on the pocket corners and at the base of the button fly. Davis did not have the required money to purchase a patent, so he wrote to Strauss suggesting that they go into business together. After Levi accepted Jacob's offer, on May 20, 1873, the two men received U.S. Patent 139,121 from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The patented rivet was later incorporated into the company's jean design and advertisements.
Contrary to an advertising campaign suggesting that Levi Strauss sold his first jeans to gold miners during the California Gold Rush (which peaked in 1849), the manufacturing of denim overalls only began in the 1870s. The company then created their first pair of Levis 501 Jeans in the 1890s, a style that went on to become the world's best selling item of clothing.Modern jeans began to appear in the 1920s, but sales were largely confined to the working people of the western United States, such as cowboys, lumberjacks, and railroad workers. 
Levi’s jeans apparently were first introduced to the East during the dude ranch craze of the 1930s, when vacationing Easterners returned home with tales  examples of the hard-wearing pants with rivets. Another boost came in World War II, when blue jeans were declared an essential commodity and were sold only to people engaged in defense work. 
Between the 1950s and 1980s, Levi's jeans became popular among a wide range of youth subcultures, including greasers, mods, rockers, hippies and skinheads. Levi's popular shrink-to-fit 501s were sold in a unique sizing arrangement; the indicated size referred to the size of the jeans prior to shrinking, and the shrinkage was substantial. The company still produces these unshrunk, uniquely sized jeans, and they are still Levi's number one selling product.

"The competition"

Although popular lore (abetted by company marketing) holds that the original design remains unaltered, this is not the case: the company's president got too close to a campfire, and the rivet at the bottom of the crotch conducted the fire's heat too well; the offending rivet, which is depicted in old advertisements, was removed.In 1991, Levi Strauss faced a scandal involving pants made in the Northern Mariana Islands, where some 3% of Levi's jeans sold annually with the Made in the USA label were shown to have been made by Chinese laborers under what the United States Department of Labor called "slavelike" conditions. 
Today, most Levi's jeans are made outside the US, for sub-minimum wages, seven-day work weeks with 12-hour shifts, poor living conditions and other indignities.
The activist group Fuerza Unida (United Force) was formed following the January 1990 closure of a plant in San Antonio, Texas, in which 1,150 seamstresses, some of whom had worked for Levi Strauss for decades, saw their jobs exported to Costa Rica. During the mid- and late-1990s, Fuerza Unida picketed the Levi Strauss headquarters in San Francisco and staged hunger strikes and sit-ins in protest of the company's labor policies.

In June 1996, the company offered to pay its workers an unusual dividend of up to $750 million in six years' time, having halted an employee stock plan at the time of the internal family buyout. However, the company failed to make cash flow targets, and no worker dividends were paid.
In 2002, Levi Strauss began a close business collaboration with Walmart, producing a special line of "Signature" jeans and other clothes for exclusive sale in Walmart stores until 2006.
Excerpts  courtesy Wikipedia

In every country he has visited - from the Philippines to Turkey, India and Brazil - Miller has stopped and counted the first 100 people to walk by, and in each he found that almost half the population wore jeans on any given day.

Jeans are everywhere, he says, with the exception of rural tracts of China and South Asia.

My view, they are practical but ugly. Also a boring piece of clothing as everybody wears them! Clever advertising has done the trick to conform people like Mao did with his blue jackets and pants, which was  thought of  in the capitalistic Western world to be ugly and awful and only communists  would or could wear something like this! 
Levis Jeans are what they were intended for Hard Yakka gear.

Please visit   Sepia Saturday; 155;                             


  1. I had never heard the Jacob Davis half of the history, nor the crotch rivet story. Interesting blog post!

    1. Wendy, yes it is was fun to dig a little in the history of the jeans.

  2. I knew about the Gold Rush element, but not the copper rivets being exclusively Levi Strauss in the beginning.
    As for me, I couldn't live without my jeans, Titania!

  3. Kat, yes they are very popular; my eldest and my youngest daughter love them, my middle one, I never seen her wearing jeans. I have never taken to them, I had some but seldom wore them. I don't know why, they just did not appeal to me.

  4. I love to wear jeans also. But after reading your post, I'm never going to wear Levi's brand jeans. What a disgusting company. But, of course, all of our clothing comes from sweat shops in third world countries these days. It's hard to know what to buy and feel guilt free.

  5. I wear jeans most of the time and also hate to buy clothes made in sweat shops. I guess I could go back to making my own clothes. But I won't.

  6. Kristin, that is how it is today. When I look at the labels I read, made in China, made in India, made in Bangladesh, made in Pakistan etc etc.

  7. It is just the kind of blog post that makes Sepia Saturday so fascinating to participate in. The wonderful thing is that reading through all the posts never becomes repetitive, because everyone goes off in a different direction. And what an interesting direction you take.

  8. I decided early on that jeans weren't for me as they were always too tight round the thighs. This is a story of jeans that I would have never learned about but for your interesting post. It seems as if all western countries have lost out to goods manufactured elsewhere.

  9. So interesting! I didn't know hardly any of this, and my husband and I wear Levi's. I kind of feel bad about it now, with all of the slave labor and unfair practices. I might just look around to see if there still are some jeans made in America.

    Kathy M.

    1. Kathy, yes it is a shame and probably none made in USA anymore.

  10. Leaving the sweat shop aspect aside for a minute, I wear jeans and I certainly don't mind others wearing them. But nowadays you see people wearing them during funerals. And that I find disrespectful, to say the least. Still, your post improved my knowledge of the possibilities of rivets :)

  11. Peter it always pays to be careful, meaning using rivets!

  12. I have to say, I can't agree with you about the jeans, because my heart can still flutter when I see a handsome young fellow in jeans and a white t-shirt, especially if he reminds me of James Dean.

  13. Tattered and Lost; I remember east of Eden. It was THE movie and JD was THE heartthrob.