Blue Jeans - American Cultural Artifact

Topics: Jeans, Culture, Levi Strauss Pages: 4 (1153 words) Published: January 20, 2011
Cultural Artifact Essay – Blue Jeans


Blue jeans in the last thirty years have attained such world wide popularity that they have come to be considered an American icon. However jeans have not always been held in high stead, but rather have had a troubled history including its beginnings within the working class movement, being considered unsavory by religious leaders and also seen as a rebellious statement about ‘western decadence’. According to the University of Toronto, no other garment has served as an example of status ambivalence and ambiguity than blue jeans in the history of fashion. Throughout this essay I will discuss how jeans have become such a common treasured and even expensive item crossing over class, gender, age, regional, and national lines as reflected by the many changing political views and acceptance from various social classes over the past 50 years. History of Blue Jeans

According to the University of Toronto, blue jeans were originally created for the California coal miners in the mid-nineteenth century by the Morris Levi Strauss, a Bavarian immigrant who relocated to New York in 1847. Mr Strauss’ fate and the history of clothing changed forever when in 1872 he received an offer from Jacob Davis, a tailor from Reno Nevada. Mr. Davis, in order to improve the durability of the pants that he made for his clients, had been adding metal rivets to the highly stressed seams. The idea was successful and he wished to patent it, but due to financial constraints required a partner and hence Levi became the financial backer and partner. In 1873, the new partners received a patent for “an improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings”, and thus the history of blue jeans as we know them began. Blue jeans were originally called “waist overalls” by Levi Strauss and Co and in the 1920’s these were the most widely used worker’s pants in America. The name of these trousers changed to “jeans” in the 1960’s when...

Cited: “Material Culture”. University of Toronto Department of History, University of Toronto, n.d. Web
“European Culture 19th Century - Blue Jeans”. Fashion Encyclopedia, Advameg, June 2010. Web.
“Modern World 1980 – 2003, Designer Jeans”. Fashion Encyclopedia, Advameg, June 2010. Web.
Sullivan, James. Jeans: A Cultural History of an American Icon. New York: Penguin, 2007. Print.
George, Diana and Trimbur, John. Reading Culture: Contexts for critical reading and writing. New York: Longman, 2007. Print.
Beagle, Peter. American Denim: A New Folk Art. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1975. Print.
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