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Levi’s jeans: How they started, how they’re made and how they’ve changed

On May 20, 1873, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis received their patent for riveted pants. This month marks the 165th year since the San Francisco clothing company first made them.
Here’s a look at the evolution of Levi’s jeans’ style and branding, plus how the apparel originally designed for hard-working laborers is now impacting the workforce as casual attire.
Riveting history
The inventor of blue jeans was Jacob Davis. Davis was a tailor living in Reno, Nevada, who began using rivets to make miners’ clothing more sturdy.
Davis wrote to his supplier, San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co., in 1872 asking for help getting a patent for his invention. Strauss paid the $68 patenting fee.
They were awarded the patent in 1873 and blue jeans were born. Originally called “waist overalls,” they sold for $3 a pair in 1873 ($58 today). Sales soared to miners in the California gold rush.

Buttoned up
The original jeans had buttons for suspenders, and a button fly. This was nothing new in the 1870s. The Levi’s button changed over the years, from a silver style in the 1870s to a darker bronze color in the early 1900s and a hollowed-out version to save materials in World War II.
In 1954, the 501Z is introduced, the version with a zipper.

 

 

Getting more casual
Jeans have been made for more than 100 years but haven’t been easily accepted in the workplace, until now.Casual Fridays are slowly becoming every day of the week. The following chart is from the Society for Human Resource Management.

As more workplaces accept casual attire, fewer workers are needing separate wardrobes for the office.This has led to a decline in the need for dry cleaning as well. IBIS World, an industry research company, found the U.S. dry cleaning market has declined 10 percent since 2010.
Sources: Levi Strauss & Co., The Smithsonian Institution, Blue Owl Workshop, levisguide.com, Society for Human Resource Management
Photos: The Associated Press, Southern California News Group, Levi Strauss, Wikimedia Commons

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