Many people are aware of the roots blue jeans have in the United States. They are a symbol of all that America is supposed to be: free from the status quo. It is almost impossible to distinguish the social and economic status of any individual wearing a pair of them. They are the invention of Jacob Davis, but were made famous by businessman Loeb Strauss who later changed his name to Levi. On May 7, 1873, the patent was received from the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Jacob Davis had invented riveted pockets on blue jeans at pocket stress points for a customer of his pants. The client constantly pestered Davis about holes developing in his pockets. It was this that inspired Jacob for the riveted pockets. However, he did not have the $68 at the time to file a patent and he wrote to Strauss offering to file with him in exchange for Strauss paying the patent filing fee.
Over the next 25 years, while Levi Strauss & Co held the patent rights to blue jeans, they became immensely popular with the working class. They were known for their rugged durability. Immediately after the exclusive patent rights expired and the invention fell into the public domain, many companies began to make blue jeans. Because in the 19th century they were worn by the working class, they were a symbol of the working man. The richest and most pampered members of society did not wear blue jeans during this era.
During World War II, blue jeans gained popularity abroad that they had gained many years earlier in the United States. Foreigners admired the pants worn by American soldiers. The end result was that they were no longer exclusively American. Europeans and other foreigners could now enjoy the benefits of rough denim. Shortly after World War II, with jeans now internationally recognized as a durable and comfortable pair of pants, sales skyrocketed.
Jeans were a symbol of the rebels for much of the middle of the 20th century, until the 1980s. Rebel figures like James Dean in the movies wore blue jeans almost exclusively, while the more conservative older generation did not. Blue jeans continued their tradition as a symbol of revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, as they were the pants of choice for hippies. Jeans would become more common again in the 1980s.
The 1980s was when designers started creating and labeling their own jeans. It was during this time period that jeans became a symbol of haute couture. Jeans sales skyrocketed during this decade. They were more accepted at this point than ever. Blue jeans fell out of favor in the decade after the ’80s when kids were teased for wearing the clothes their parents wore. While the boys still wore blue jeans, they had to be different from the traditional straight blue jeans their parents grew up in. As a result, many jean manufacturers had to modify their designs to keep up or face possible bankruptcy.
Blue jeans continue to be worn today and still conceal the status of the wearer. Its sturdiness and durability attract both the poor and the rich. Jeans are now coming back into fashion and traditional jean manufacturers have fragmented as a result of the last two decades filling various niches. Whichever path blue jeans take, their roots lie deep in American soil.