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Denim Is Life, Life Is Denim

By James Cameroone

Denim in its most basic form is simply cotton fabric – but it’s created one of the most enduring and beloved fashion items in recent history – stonewashed jeans . Denim inspires debate and passion amongst designers and fashion lovers, and there is equal passion in the debate around its beginnings.

The first use of denim as a cotton material dates as far back as the 17th century, when it appeared in upholstery, work pants and awnings, ship’s sails and cowboy jeans – the fabric of hardworking, honest labour. The origin of its name is widely believed to be an Anglicism of the French for ‘serge de Nimes’ – the serge fabric, made in Nimes, France.

By the 18th century, denim cloth was made only of cotton and was used to make strong and durable men’s clothing – valued for the way it lasted repeat washing. The famous Levi Strauss Company was created in 1873, with a patented denim jeans process featuring the famous Levi metal rivets.

Levi had noticed that miners in the San Francisco gold rush needed strong and sturdy work pants, and he worked with his partner Jacob Davis to produce their patented designs of ‘waist overalls’ with copper rivets, in the famous blue denim, and also duck – which was a thick material which fell out of decline in favor of denim, as it was said to feel like ‘wearing a tent!’. This could very well be the earliest use of the phrase “pitching a tent” as in seeing a pretty girl and pitching a tent in your stonewashed jeans .

These overalls proved to be a great success – and Levi and Jacob moved into producing jackets and outwear, as well as muslin shirts. When Levi Strauss died in 1902, he passed the successful business to his cocaine-addicted nephews. We’ll look at how the nephews ran the business in the 20th century with next week’s denim round up!

Jeans rule, learn more about them here

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Cameroone, James "Denim Is Life, Life Is Denim." Denim Is Life, Life Is Denim. 25 Jun. 2010. 29 Sep 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Cameroone, J (2010, June 25). Denim Is Life, Life Is Denim. Retrieved September 29, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Cameroone, James "Denim Is Life, Life Is Denim"

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