AKA: blue jeans, Levi’s, dude jeans, dungarees, overalls

How to say it: as it looks

Traditional Features: 

These days there are hundreds of garments that can be called ‘jeans’ and they all look different. The illustration below is of the women’s classic 501 or XX Jean, the mens’ version was originally patented by Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis in 1873 and is considered the first jean.

body template

  • full length
  • two hip pockets
  • watch pocket
  • straight through the leg
  • top stitching
  • rivets in high stress points
  • two back pockets


…of the style: While Genoese sailors are said to have worn jeans made from a cotton corduroy long before the Americans got hold of the style, the undisputed Father of the blue jeans is Levi Strauss.

Strauss moved from Germany to the US in 1851 and in 1853 he headed to San Francisco and the Gold Rush to open a dry goods store. In 1872 he partnered with tailor Jacob Davis to produce and sell work pants, made from duck cloth and denim, with rivets used to secure points of high strain. The pants were a success because the durable fabric they were made from was very durable and softened with wear, and the rivets in the points of strain (like the sides of pocket opening and the bottom of the fly) made the garments last even longer.

On the 20th of May, 1873 the first denim jean was patented by Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis; it was called XX (now called the 501).

Since that fateful day jeans has grown and evolved with the human race. In the 1930s cowboy movies made them popular with the general public and many who people visited ‘dude ranches’ brought their denim waist overalls so they could fit in. The 30s also saw the introduction of ladies jeans. Introduced in 1934 it had many of the same features of the men’s 501 but with a higher waist to fit the female figure.

In the 1940s the production of jeans dropped due to WWII, but American soldiers are said to have introduced denim jeans to the world as they sometimes wore them when they were off duty.

In the 1950s James Dean made jeans look really good and they became a symbol of youth rebellion. Because of this link, jeans were often banned in public places like schools, theatres and restaurants.

The 60s fashion trends gave rise to bleached or pre-worn jeans, and slim fit jeans. By the 70s jeans had become accepted as a form of casual dress and jeans were allowed back into schools.The silhouette had also changed; jeans now had flared legs to match the bell-bottomed Hippie styles of the time.

The 1980s saw the invention of stone-washing (for better or worse) and jeans were now routinely offered in various leg shapes from the original straight cut through to a bell-bottom. The 80s also brought the introduction of the ‘designer jean’ as the pants crossed over into high fashion and well know designers started making high-end versions for their own labels.

By the 1990s jeans were a wardrobe staple and it was normal for people to have several pairs in various styles. The turn of the century brought the skinny jeans, jeggings, hipsters, bumsters, curvy jeans… the list goes on. Nowadays jeans are available in every colour, every style and at every price point. They really are the pants of the people.

…of the name: The term jeans is said to have come from the French word for Genoa – Genes, a city famous for its cotton corduroy and where sailors wore a version of jeans before they were introduced into America.

For more info on Jeans try Wikipedia, Levis, the BBC or check out the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

Random Facts

  • until 1960, Levi Strauss called their jeans waist overalls
  • the average North American owns 7 pairs of jeans

21st Century Jeans

Jeans are everywhere in every style – you can basically get what you want. And while finding the perfect jeans can be a bit of a mission, at least now there is a LOT to choose from!

501 acne studios

Levi Strauss 501 (straight leg), Acne Studios (skinny leg)

victoria beckham tory burch

Victoria Beckham Denim (flared leg), Tory Burch (boot-cut)


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