History of Denim Jeans

Topics: Jeans, Denim, Levi Strauss Pages: 4 (1618 words) Published: March 4, 2013
History of the Fornication Pants

Jeans today are much more than a simple item of clothing; they are a staple, a comfort and an identity. They are not a piece of clothing that is unique to one culture or society; jeans are jeans no matter where you are. Jeans have transcended nationality, race and even war, and yet they are still one of the most ordinary parts of our lives. What many people take for granted is that Jeans have become such a part of their everyday lives that they never stop to think about where they come from, and what they have done for people. Jeans had a humble beginning, a colourful and influential life and have a bright future. They are a part of North American history and culture and have defined many people’s lives.

Cotton denim started being produced in North America in the eighteenth century and with the American cotton industry came slave labour. Plantation owners relied on slaves to keep prices down, and in 1860 there were almost four million slaves in the southern United States. (Kyi p.10) Denim got its name from a French fabric woven of silk and wool. The fabric was made in Nimes, France, and as a result it was dubbed “serge de Nimes”, but when the fabric began being stocked in English stores, it was shortened to “deNimes” or “denim”. (Sullivan p.12) At the time, denim was the strongest fabric and was even thought to have been the fabric of choice for the sails of the ships that Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World. (Sullivan p.14) Jean manufacturers buying denim from mills requested dark blue cloth rather than the pale beige offered as it was a colour that would show less dirt and wear. So denim cloth began to be dyed using indigo, but because of the time needed to make the dye it was one of the most expensive dyes in the world. That changed in the 1880’s, when a German scientist by the name of Johann von Baeyer discovered a way to create the same colour in a lab. The colour blue was now much more accessible...

Cited: 1. Kyi, Tanya Lloyd. The Blue Jean Book: The Story behind the Seams.
New York, New York: Annick Press, 2007.
2. Sullivan, James. Jeans: A Cultural History of an American Icon.
New York, New York: Gotham Books, 2006.
3. Contini, Mila. 5000 Years of Fashion.
Secaucus, New Jersey: Chartwell Books, Inc., 1977.
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