The History of Denim - From Workwear to Bespoke Fashion Staple

As a rule, fashion is mysterious. Despite a wide range of innovative materials available, denim has revolutionized the fashion industry like no other clothing. Well, denim jeans have come a long way - from being tough twill trousers (worn by sailors and merchants) to becoming a wardrobe staple. To date, denim remains one of the most sought-after, versatile, and durable materials because of its constant appeal. 

While denim jeans have become an integral part of everyday life, most of us never stop to question how did it come into existence. How was it manufactured? How did it keep transforming over the years? Today, we're here to talk about the history of denim and its evolution from a working-class uniform to a bespoke fashion staple. 

Let's step back together, dive into the history and uncover how our treasured denim jeans have undergone transformations over time. 

The History and Mystery of Denim

Bespoke Fashion

Denim has a rich history spanning several centuries. Let's know it all right away!

Origins and Early History

To date, there are debates about denim's origin. Some believe that the word jean is derived from Italy - the country with historical expertise in textile and tailoring production. Around 400 years ago, in Genova (or Genoa), sailors used to make pants and ship sails with coarse twilled cotton cloth. This material was named jeans (genes) after the Genoese people. Back in the day, jeans were a go-to work garment option because it was affordable as well as sturdy for the rough duties of dockmen, seamen, miners, etc. 

After knowing about the sturdy and durable denim fabric, weavers from Nimes, France, tried replicating it in the 17th century but failed. However, they ended up creating a unique twill material. This fabric was made by passing weft under the warp threads, using a twill weave. Indigo was used by the weavers to dye the warp threads blue. The weft threads were left in their natural state (white color). This process gave the fabric a unique blue color on one side and white on the other. The people from France called this fabric "Serge de Nimes." The word Denim was thus derived by putting the words "De Nimes" together. 

Denim in the 18th Century

Until the 18th century, denim/jean material was made with a conglomeration of things. This was the time when cotton turned into a booming business in the Southern US. From industrial workers to farmers, the working class wore denim clothes for their longevity and fortitude. This fabric stood up when other materials failed. 

In 1848, gold was discovered in California. When the news spread, the gold fever ran rampant. People started arriving at the spot in droves to seek their fortune. The miners working on finding the gold wanted clothes that were made to last. In such a scenario, the best option they had was denim uniforms.  

The Birth of Levis & Co.

Levi Strauss had come to New York from Germany in 1851. He moved there to join his elder brother, who owned a dry goods store. Later in 1853, he heard about the Gold Rush in the West. Thus he moved to San Francisco with the aim of expanding the family dry goods business. Among other things, he also sold cotton cloth. 

A tailor from Reno, Nevada - Jacob W. Davis, came across the fabric sold by Levi Strauss and purchased it. He was known to make functional items like horse blankets, tents, wagon covers, etc. Once, a customer requested him to make sturdy pants that could withstand the rough and tough working conditions. He made the pant from the fabric bought from Levi Strauss. As the customer wanted sturdy and durable pants, he made them stronger by using copper rivets in the areas where they ripped the most - flies and pockets. 

The customer was highly impressed. With more people demanding to get similar pants, Jacob decided to patent the design but didn't have the required funds. But he didn't give up. He wrote to Levi Strauss and offered him a deal in exchange for getting rivet patented. In 1872 Levi agreed, and they became partners. Together they opened a big factory, and that is how the type of Denim Jeans we see today came into existence. 

The Craze of Denim in the 19th Century

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In the 1930s, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and other cowboys became heroes of the silver screen and the radio. Most of them were often seen sporting jeans. Because of them, hundreds of people started wearing waist overalls - what we call jeans today. 

Late in the 1930s, during World War II, fewer jeans were manufactured. The soldiers wore them off-duty, and that is how jeans gained more popularity. With an aim to expand the brand, Levi Strauss began exporting jeans to many places. The competitors like Wrangler and Lee sprang up, wanting their share in the world market. 

In 1955, James Dean donned a rebellious look with a black leather jacket and blue denim jeans. After seeing him in the movie "Rebel Without a Cause," teenagers went crazy over the jeans and branded them "Blue Jeans." However, because of its connection to rebellions, jeans were banned from many schools in Canada and the US.

In the 1960s, the hippies and the cold war had a great impact on the evolution of blue jeans. This is the time when jeans customization gained popularity (different prints and embroidery patterns.)  

In the 1970s, sweatshops sprang up, particularly in the southern countries. Back then, blue jeans flooded the markets - causing a price drop. Thus, more and more people started wearing jeans as they could easily afford them. 

In the 1980s, jeans became vogue. Top fashion designers like Guess, Calvin Klein, and Jordache started recreating jeans to make them more classier. They introduced high-end tailored jeans with distinctive finishes and cuts, elevating them as a fashion statement. They sold it under their name and label, and thus the blue jeans sales dramatically increased. The craze was such that everyone just wanted to own a pair of designer tailored jeans.

In the 1990s, the world was hit by a recession, and jeans sales decreased as it wasn't just feasible to buy a pair of jeans. 

The Comeback of Denim in the 20th Century 

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In the early 20th century, denim jeans started making their way into mainstream fashion. Movies started featuring costumes that included denim jeans. This further popularized jeans, making them a symbol of a fashion statement. 

Later, custom jeans became a hot trend. Jeans customization enabled the wearers to express their style preferences creatively. There was also a phase when the concept of DIY Jeans mesmerized many. Ripped, embroidered, high-rise, and low-rise styles were people's favorites. 

The denim trends have changed drastically in the 20th century and will keep changing for the time to come. Nowadays, people are embracing the bespoke fashion game and coming up with creative mixes and matches of styles. Custom jeans offer the ultimate comfort and durability - making their appeal timeless. 

On the other hand, jeans manufacturers are also trying to keep up with sustainable fashion norms. With the rising awareness among the new generation, manufacturers are responding to the consumer demand for environmentally sound production processes and ecological fabrics. Well, eniM is one such brand that not only makes bespoke jeans for men but also sticks to sustainable production policies. 

That was it for today. Hope you got some interesting insights and now know how denim jeans evolved for decades. Share this with someone who would love to read and know it all in and out!

If you think you need a pair of jeans for yourself, explore the best, trendy custom jeans options on our platform today. 

About eniM

eniM specializes in making bespoke jeans for men in India. We love the idea of bespoke fashion and want to empower folks with unique body proportions. No matter what your waist size is or how short or tall you are, we have a pair of custom jeans for each one of you. 

We want to stop people from compromising their style just because they don't fit the standard sizes. eniM bespoke jeans for men come with style and comfort guaranteed. 

Ready to boost your confidence and upgrade your fashion statement? Well, hurry up then. Talk to our styling experts today and get your pair of perfectly tailored jeans - made just for your body!

Elevate your style; trust us, it's worthwhile!

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