The Hidden Story Behind Everyone’s Favorite American Wardrobe Classic: Jeans!

In honor of the year’s most patriotic of season, it seems only fitting to take a look back at the story behind one of the most classically American wardrobe staples there is: jeans! Here’s guessing you won’t ever look at your favorite blues the same way again.


1837: Levi Strauss creates “waist overalls” out of sturdy denim fabric for California Gold Rush miners. He partners with a man named Jacob Davis, who has the idea to reinforce the pockets of the overalls with rivets and Levi’s are born.

1870s: Farmers and ranchers, in need of sturdy workwear, start wearing jeans.


1930: Cowboy culture is all the rage. Hollywood makes tons of Western movies in which the heroes wore jeans; Americans vacation at dude ranches and bring jeans home as souvenirs.

1932: Levi’s introduces the 701, the first jean style specifically designed for women. It features soft, prewashed denim and a fitted waist.

1940s: WWII soldiers introduce the entire world to jeans when they wear them off-duty abroad. Lee and Wrangler are founded in response to the worldwide demand; zipper flies replace button flies.


1955: Jeans become the symbol of rebellious youth when James Dean wears them in Rebel Without a Cause. Teenagers are obsessed.


1960s: The rebellious teenagers of the ’50s graduate from high school and bring their jeans youth to college…and decorate them with embroidery, patches, and paint.


1976: Farrah Fawcett and her Charlie’s Angels make jeans sexy. Industrialization makes jeans cheaper, and more people around the world start wearing them.


1980: Brooke Shields and her Calvins make jeans a high-fashion commodity.

1993: Alexander McQueen shows low-rise “bumsters” on the runway in London; the style doesn’t catch on in the U.S. until pop stars like Britney Spears adopt them nearly a decade later.


1990s: Baggy jeans are the aesthetic cornerstone of two of major music genres: hip-hop and grunge.


2000s: Kate Moss and the popularity of garage rock bands like the Strokes launch the skinny jean’s decade-long reign; premium denim brands like 7 for All Mankind and Citizens for Humanity are in high demand.


2012: After years of poor sales, the Gap makes a comeback thanks to a super-popular range of brightly colored, affordable skinny jeans.


2013: Marc Jacobs sends models down the runway in pale boyfriend jeans (and extravagant headdresses) for his final show at Louis Vuitton.


2014: So-called “mom jeans”—high-waisted, classic-cut jeans—make a comeback.

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