Thursday, May 13, 2010

Oki-ni's history of Denim

The webshop Oki-ni dropped a great history of Denim online. Have a look:


This is the story of denim, from the very first fabric creation for the Genoese Navy through to the sexy ad campaigns of the 80s and beyond...
  • 1600
  • The first jean fabric is created in Chieri, a town near Turin using the raw materials from the city of Nimes or 'Serge de Nimes' (France). They were then sold through the Italian port of Genoa and then made into all-purpose sailor pants for the Genoese Navy. Legend has it that Columbus used denim for his sails over a hundred years earlier.
  • 1789
  • One of the first printed references the word 'denim' is used in the United states.
  • 1848
  • Gold is found across California and the famous Gold Rush begins. Gold Rush ticket from 1849
  • 1853
  • Loeb Strauss, later known as Levi Strauss, starts wholesale business, supplying clothes to mine workers. Loeb Struass portrait
  • 1864
  • Webster's Dictionary adds the word denim, referring to it as a coarse cotton drilling used for overalls.
  • 1868
  • Durability of pockets on miner’s clothes is compromised; Levi Strauss (LS&Co) and Jacob Davis come up with an idea of using metal rivets to hold the pockets and the jeans together.
  • 1873
  • 20th May to be precise, LS&Co and Jacob Davis receive a patent for an 'improvement in fastening pocket openings' – putting rivets in jeans for strength. The U.S Patent Number was no.139,121 and this date is now considered the official birthday of blue jeans.
  • 1901
  • Fifth pocket on the back is introduced to the standard four pocket version which remains unchanged up until this day.
  • 1902
  • Levi Strauss dies aged 73 leaving the business to his four nephews.
  • 1906
  • The great San Fransico earthquake and virtually all LS&Co’s records, patent papers and inventories are lost.
  • 1920
  • Levi's® jeans become the leading product in men’s work pants in the Western States.
  • 1924
  • Eloesser-Heynemann, the proprietor of 'Can't Bust'Em' brand, is the first to the coin the term 'jeans' or 'frisko jeans' for waist overalls. Can't Bust'Em' branding
  • 1930
  • Hollywood-produced Western films feature cowboys wearing jeans - many Americans follow the look. 'Cimarron' film poster from 1931 staring Glenn Ford
  • 1933
  • American chemist Sanford Cluett invented a technique to 'sanforise' cotton fabrics, including denim, completely and permanently. Despite this, pre-washing jeans didn't become popular until the 60s
  • 1940's
  • War rationing reduced production and inclusion of unnecessary metal hardware in jeans. Metal (heat conducting) crotch rivets are removed after Levi's® CEO Walter Hass suffers an embarrassing campfire burn ...

    Competition begins.

    Companies like Wrangler and Lee compete with Levi's waist overalls upon expiry of their patent.
  • 1950's
  • Levi’s® starts to sell waist overalls nationally. A large emphasis is put on targeting teenagers in advertising campaigns.

    Jeans are less associated with workwear and more with 'new ideas, rebellion and individuality'. American teenagers start calling waist overalls 'jean pants' on a regular basis and wear them everywhere except 'in bed and in church'.
  • 1954
  • Zippers are used for the first time on waist overalls - providing the first alternative to the traditional button fly.
  • 1955
  • James Dean stars in Hollywood film 'Rebel Without A Cause' wearing a uniform of blue jeans, black leather jacket and tight white t-shirt. 'Rebel Without A Cause' film poster with male lead James Dean. The look of a generation – and beyond- is born.
  • 1960s
  • Different styles are introduced to complement 60s fashion and hippy style: embroidery, paint and psychedelic designs become popular. 1960s hippies.
  • 1970 (Autumn)
  • Writer for 'American Fabrics' magazine says: “Denim is one of the world's oldest fabrics, yet it remains eternally young. Indigo blue denim has become a phenomenon without parallel in our times”
  • 1970s
  • Golden age for denim with dungarees, bib and brace, bell bottoms and flares all widely popular. Denim becomes truly ubiquitous. Wide range of jeans, hundreds of alternative shapes and finishes available.

    As world trade softens jeans become more affordable and people in the rest of the world get their hands on them. A blank canvas to be altered, shredded, patched and fringed – denim becomes glamorous.
  • 1971
  • Jeans are officially made respectable - Coty Fashion Critics Award awards Levi's® for the world fashion influence.
  • Blue Jeans as a symbol of rebellion become extinct.
  • 1977
  • The very first pair of 'designer jeans' by Calvin Klein are born.
  • 1980s
  • Europe gets a taste of designer jeans. Denim screams high status, gloss and glamour. Designers began manufacturing jeans with their own labels in and create large scale ‘sexy’ ad campaigns to promote them.Levis ad from 1979
  • 1980
  • Calvin Klein controversially featured a 15 year old Brooke Shields in an ad campaign wearing a pair of his jeans with the strap line: “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins. Calvin Klein ad campaign featuring Brooke Shields
  • 1990s
  • Jeans begin to go out of fashion.

    The youth of the 90s didn’t want to be seen in the same styles as their parents who were still part of the denim revolution of the 80s so turned to more casual fabrics and cuts such as khakis, combats, chinos and branded sportswear pants.

    Denim was still fairly popular but a complete contrast to the clean, classic styles of the 80s with a demand for new washes and finishes, or vintage pairs.

    This lack of demand for what had been the height of their popularity a few years previous meant that jeans sales plummeted and Levi's®, the largest manufacturer, suffered the worst with 11 of their North American factories forced to close down.
  • Late 1990s
  • The biggest change to jeans in the 90s is the silhouette; with hip hop ruling mainstream culture the oversized jean becomes popular among the youth. 'Street' style denim seen here on the streets of Brooklyn.
  • 2001
  • Levi's® manages to buy the oldest known pair of Levi's® jeans on Ebay for $46,532.

    Vintage denim has a huge following and the resurfacing of this jean prompted Levi's® to return to their archive and produce the Levi's® Vintage Clothing collection.

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