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Old 28-02-12, 11:27
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Default How jeans conquered the world


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They were first designed as workwear for labourers on the farms and mines of America's Western states in the late 19th Century.

When a Nevada tailor called Jacob Davis was asked to make a pair of sturdy trousers for a local woodcutter, he struck upon the idea of reinforcing them with rivets. They proved extremely durable and were soon in high demand.

Davis realised the potential of his product but couldn't afford to patent it. He wrote to his fabric supplier, the San Francisco merchant, Levi Strauss, for help.


The world's oldest surviving pair of jeans dates from around 1879
"The secratt of them Pents is the Rivits that I put in those Pockots," he said. "I cannot make them up fast enough…My nabors are getting yealouse of these success."

Levi's, as the patented trousers became known, were made in two fabrics, cotton duck (similar to canvas) and denim.

"They found really early on that it was the denim version that would sell," says Paul Trynka, author of Denim: From Cowboys to Catwalks. Denim was more comfortable, softening with age, and its indigo dye gave it a unique character.

Indigo doesn't penetrate the cotton yarn like other dyes but sits on the outside of each thread. These molecules chip off over time, causing the fabric to fade and wear in a unique way.

"Why did it sell?" asks Trynka. "Because the denim changed as it aged and the way it wore reflected people's lives."

Because of its fading quality, denim was sold raw - unwashed and untreated - and by the beginning of the 20th Century workers began to realise they could shrink the trousers to a more comfortable fit.

Not only were they more durable but each pair of jeans began to tell the story of the worker and his work.
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Fell apart - after three years of hard wear

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A 1917 letter in the Levi's archive from miner Homer Campbell of Constellation, Arizona, describes how he wore his jeans every day for three years:

"Please find enclosed one pair of your overalls which I am sending you that the head of your fabric department may determine what is wrong. I purchased these from the Brayton Commercial Co of Wickenburg, Arizona, in the early part of 1917 and I have worn them every day except Sunday since that time and for some reason which I wish you would explain they have gone to pieces. I have worn nothing but Levi Strauss overalls for the past 30 years and this pair has not given me the service that I have got from some of your overalls in the past. I know that it is your aim to present a superior article on the market and consider it my duty to help you in any way I can. Please consider this and let me know if the fault is mine."
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Old 28-02-12, 11:52
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Who else experienced blue leg syndrome after shrinking their Levi's to fit?
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Old 28-02-12, 13:06
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I am old enough to have experienced the South Sea Bubble Companies brightly coloured flared jeans, I had every colour I could find though the yellow were my favourite.
I used to sit in the bath in all my jeans and keep them on till dry.
SSBC jeans came with an unfinished hem to enable you to hem them after shrinking but of course I never did this I just let the ground do it's work as I tramped around.
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