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The Early Days Of Levi Jeans

By James Cameroone

In its early days, well before stonewashed jeans came into popularity, jean cloth was produced from a variety of items. However, in the eighteenth century as trade, slave labor, and cotton plantations became more pervasive, jean cloth was derived entirely from cotton. Workers liked it because the material was very tough and it did not wear out as quickly as other materials such as wool. It was usually dyed with indigo to give it its blue coloration, a dye taken from plants in the Americas and India.

In 1848 the California Gold Rush became the focus of the eyes of the world. The gold miners needed clothes that were tough and did not tear easily. In 1853, a man called Leob Strauss left his home in New York and moved to San Francisco, where he started a wholesale business, supplying clothes- mostly denim to prospectors and their workers. Strauss later changed his name from Leob to Levi. Big surprise. What the heck kind of name is Leob?

One of the main issues the miners encountered was the weakness of their pockets, which easily tore away from the jeans. A man called Jacob Davis had the idea of using metal rivets (fasteners) to hold the pockets and the jeans together so that they wouldn’t separate as willingly.

Davis wanted to patent his idea, but he didn’t have enough money, so in 1872, he wrote to Levi Strauss and offered Strauss a deal if Strauss would pay for the patent. Strauss accepted, and he started making copper-riveted ‘waist overalls’ (as jeans were called then). It was a partnership that would endure generations to come.

In 1886, Levi got brand savvy and sewed a leather label on their jeans. The label showed a picture of a pair of jeans that were being pulled between two horses going in opposing directions. This was to advertise how absurdly strong Levi jeans were: even two horses could not tear them apart. In the 20th century, Levi began experimenting with many different washing strategies, including the early stages of the process that creates stonewashed jeans, which we’ll cover in next week’s denim round up!

Stonewashed jeans are awesome!

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Cameroone, James "The Early Days Of Levi Jeans." The Early Days Of Levi Jeans. 24 Jun. 2010. 27 Jul 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Cameroone, J (2010, June 24). The Early Days Of Levi Jeans. Retrieved July 27, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Cameroone, James "The Early Days Of Levi Jeans"

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