Hollywood helped romanticize the blue jean in the 1920s and 1930s by putting the trousers on handsome cowboy types played by the likes of John Wayne and Gary Cooper.
On May 20th, 1978, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis obtained a U.S. patent on the process of putting rivets in men's work pants for the very first time. Thus came the birth of the blue jean. Although, it should be noted that they were called “waist overalls” or “overalls” until 1960, when baby boomers adopted the name “jeans.
Levi Strauss came to San Francisco in 1853 at the age of 24 to open a West Coast branch of his brothers’ New York wholesale dry goods business. Over the next 20 years, he built his business into a very successful operation, making a name for himself not only as a well-respected businessman, but also as a local philanthropist. One of Levi’s customers was a tailor named Jacob Davis.
One day the wife of a local laborer asked Jacob to make a pair of pants for her husband that wouldn’t fall apart. Jacob tried to think of a way to strengthen his trousers and came up with the idea to put metal rivets at points of strain, like pocket corners and the base of the button fly. These riveted pants were an instant hit. Jacob quickly decided to take out a patent on the process, but needed a business partner to help get the project rolling. He immediately thought of Levi Strauss, from whom he had purchased the cloth to make his riveted pants.
Davis wrote to Levi to suggest that the two men hold the patent together. Levi, being an astute businessman, saw the potential for this new product, and agreed to Jacob’s proposal. The two men received patent #139,121 from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on May 20, 1873.
Soon, the first riveted clothing was made and sold. We made our first jeans out of denim — the traditional fabric for men’s workwear. Within a very short time, the jean was a bona fide success.
The next time you see someone wearing a pair of jeans, remember that these pants are a direct descendant of that first pair made by Strauss and Davis back in 1873. That year, two visionary immigrants, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis, turned denim, thread and a little metal into what has become the most popular apparel on earth.