5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Blue Jeans

On May 20, 1873, Levi Strauss and his partner Jacob Davis received a patent for riveted pants that became known as blue jeans. Here are 5 things you probably didn’t know about the history of these iconic jeans in America…


Blue Jeans Were The Creation of Two Immigrants Although Levis are an iconic symbol of America, two immigrants were involved in their original design. Jacob Davis, an immigrant from Latvia, who was living in Reno, Nevada, came up with the idea of placing copper rivets at particular points in work pants to make them stronger. He contacted Levi Strauss, a German-born wholesale dry goods merchant, who supplied his fabric. Strauss financed the application for the patent and became the name of the popular denim jeans.

There’s a Reason Jeans Have Rivets It wasn't just for style that Levi's jeans have had copper rivets on the pockets since the beginning.  Copper rivets placed on the pockets made the seams more durable and prevented tearing, which was important to the miners who originally wore them.  In the 1930s, the pockets were sewn to the pants so that the rivets were covered because of complaints that they scratched furniture. But they were returned to view in 1947. A small fifth pocket was added as a handy carrying case for a pocket watch.


One Pair of Levis Sold for More Than $46,000 One of the world’s oldest pairs of Levi’s jeans - made in the 1880s and sold for around a dollar- was reacquired by Levi Strauss & Co. for $46,532. The jeans were found in an old gold mine in the Mojave Desert in California in 1999 and were reported to be 100 years old.  In what is believed to be the highest price ever paid for denim, Levi’s bought the jeans during an online eBay auction. Levi’s historian Lynn Downey said the company would use the jeans as a template for part of a vintage collection. Historians for Levi Strauss examined the fabric and patented copper rivets and concluded the jeans were produced between 1880 and 1885.

Jeans Weren’t Always Called Jeans What people know today as jeans were originally called waist overalls when they were first sold by Bavarian immigrant Levi Strauss and his partner Jacob Davis in 1873. People continued to call them waist overalls or just plain overalls until the 1960s. Jean (or jeane) was the name for the cotton corduroy fabric made in Genoa, Italy, that was used to fashion the pants.

Hollywood Made Jeans Popular With Teens Originally, jeans were associated with the working class and Westerners such as cowboys, but Hollywood films changed that. It started first with Marlon Brando wearing jeans as a tough biker in The Wild One in 1953, and then with heartthrob James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause in 1955. By the time Marilyn Monroe appeared in The Misfits in 1961, everyone wanted to own at least a few pairs of jeans, including women.