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Denim jeans

Jeans are pants, or trousers, made from denim. Mainly designed for work, they became popular among teenagers starting in the 1950s. Historic brands include Levi's, Lee and Wrangler.

Jeans are now a very popular form of casual dress around the world, and have been so for decades. They come in many styles and colors; however, "blue jeans" are particularly identified with American culture, especially the American Old West. The American population spent more than $14 billion on jeans in 2004.

Trousers made from corduroy or canvas are sometimes incorrectly called jeans. However, traditionally the word "jeans" referred exclusively to trousers made out of denim.


The word "jeans" comes from the French phrase bleu de Gênes, literally the blue of Genoamarker. Jeans fabric, or denim, originated independently in two places: the French town of Nîmesmarker, to which 'denim' owes its name; and in Indiamarker, where trousers made of denim material were worn by the sailors of Dhunga, which came to be known as dungarees.

At around the same time, denim trousers were made in Chierimarker, a town near Turinmarker (Italymarker), during the Renaissance, and were popularised in the 16th century. These trousers were sold through the harbour of Genoamarker, which was the capital of the independent Republic of Genoa which was a naval power.

Early examples of these trousers were made for the Genoese Navy, which required all-purpose pants for its sailors. They required pants that could be worn wet or dry, the legs of which could easily be rolled up to wear while swabbing the deck. These jeans were laundered by dragging them in large mesh nets behind the ship, and the exposure to sea water and sun would gradually bleach them to white. They were especially worn by Genoan sailors and stevedores who worked in Francemarker.


Traditionally, jeans are dyed to a blue color using indigo dye. Approximately 20 million tons of indigo are produced annually for this purpose, though only a few grams of the dye are required for each pair of trousers.

Riveted jeans

A Germanmarker-Jewish dry goods merchant Levi Strauss was selling blue jeans under the "Levi's" name to the mining communities of Californiamarker in the 1850s. One of Strauss's customers was Jacob Davis, a tailor who frequently purchased bolts of cloth from the Levi Strauss & Co. wholesale house. After one of Davis's customers kept purchasing cloth to reinforce torn pants, he had an idea to use copper rivets to reinforce the points of strain, such as on the pocket corners and at the top of the button fly. Davis did not have the required money to purchase a patent, so he wrote to Strauss suggesting that they both go into business together. After Strauss accepted Davis's offer, the two men received , for an "Improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings," on May 20, 1873.

In 1885 jeans could be purchased in the US for $1.50 (approximately $34 in 2007). Today, an equivalent pair of jeans can be purchased for around $50–80, but more stylish pairs can cost much more. Many pairs of jeans are currently available for much less.

In popular culture

The blue denim fabric of jeans

Initially, blue jeans were simply sturdy trousers worn by workers, especially in the factories during World War II. During this period, men's jeans had the zipper down the front, whereas women's jeans had the zipper down the right side. By the 1960s, both men's and women's jeans had the zipper down the front.

Jeans (known as dungarees by then),along with a light-blue stenciled cambric shirts, became part of the official working uniform of the United States Navy in the 20th century prior to being replaced by the coveralls, utilities and ,more recently, the blue & gray digital-camouflaged navy working uniform. The reason being was to prevent other more traditional uniforms from becoming soiled or torn in the ship's rugged working environment and thus leaving them for wear during ceremonial occasions. They were first issued in 1901, and were originally straight-legged but by the mid-20th century the trousers became Boot-cut style to permit ventilation in the ship's hotter working environments and also ,supposedly, to serve as an improvised life-preserver by removing the jeans and tying the legs together.

The same type of uniform consisting of jeans and chambray tops was (and still is) issued as prison uniforms in some correctional facilities mainly because of the durability and low-maintenance of denim which was deemed suitable for the rugged manual labor carried-out by inmates. A popular example of the use of denim as prison wear can be seen in the film Cool Hand Luke.

After James Dean popularized them in the movie, Rebel Without a Cause, wearing blue jeans by teenagers and young adults became a symbol of youth rebellion during the 1950s. Because of this, they were sometimes banned in theaters, restaurants and schools.

During the 1960s the wearing of blue jeans became more acceptable. By the 1970s had become a general fashion in the United States, at least for informal wear.

Notably, in the mid-1970s the denim and textiles industry was revolutionized by the introduction of the stone-washing technique by GWG (Great Western Garment Co.). Entrepreneur, importer, and noted eccentric Donald Freeland of Edmonton, Albertamarker pioneered the method, which helped to bring denim to a larger and more versatile market. Denim suddenly became an attractive product for all age groups and Freeland became one of the most important innovators in the history of denim and denim products. Acceptance of jeans continued through the 1980s and 1990s to the point where jeans are now a wardrobe staple, with the average North American owning seven pairs.

As imported American products, jeans were somewhat expensive, especially in the case of the Soviet Unionmarker which restricted hard currency imports. In Spain they are known as vaqueros or "cowboys," in Danish cowboybukser meaning "cowboy pants" and in Chinese niuzaiku (SC: 牛仔裤, TC: 牛仔褲), literally, "cowboy pants" (trousers), indicating their association with the American West, cowboy culture, and outdoors work. Similarly, the Hungarian name for jeans is "farmernadrág", meaning "farmer-trousers".

Jeans can be worn very loose in a manner that completely conceals the shape of the wearer's lower body, or they can be snugly fitting and accentuate the body. Historic photographs indicate that in the decades before they became a staple of fashion, jeans generally fit quite loosely, much like a pair of bib overalls without the bib. Indeed, until 1960, Levi Strauss denominated its flagship product "waist overalls" rather than "jeans".

Blue jean insulation

Recycled blue jean is becoming a popular insulation material (sometimes called Cotton Batt insulation) used in the construction of houses. Due to its low relative synthetic chemical composition and because it is made of recycled materials, it is gaining prominence in green building circles. Like conventional insulation, it moderates heat transfer and reduces sound transfer between floors or rooms. Blue Jean insulation has an R-Value of 13 to 19 (for 3.5 and 5.5 inch batts, respectively) making it a preferable insulator to typical fiberglass batts even without taking into account the environmental considerations.


Fits of jeans are determined by current styles, sex, and by the manufacturer. Here are some of the fits produced for jeans:

Jeans come in many styles and fits based on the manufacturer. The styles popular of young adults include yellow and white fades to look as if they have been worn down and been worked in and skinny jeans worn with flats or Sperry Top-Siders in in a wide range of colors from red and purple to more traditional black and various shades of blue. Some brands even sell vintage looks where the legs are pre-scratched and torn before use.

Rises in jeans (the distance from the crotch to the waistband) range from high-waisted to superlow-rise (Low rise can be called Low Riders). Jeans for men usually have a longer rise and zipper, whereas women have a shorter rise and zipper, although exceptions do exist and this is largely a function of current trends. In decades past, when high-waisted jeans were popular, it was often the women's that featured a longer rise.

Quotes about jeans

"I have often said that I wish I had invented blue jeans: the most spectacular, the most practical, the most relaxed and nonchalant. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity - all I hope for in my clothes."Yves Saint-Laurent

"I'm like every other woman: a closet full of clothes, but nothing to wear: So I wear jeans." - Cameron Diaz

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