Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 6th 2015 Contents A26
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, April 6, 2015
The Levis 501 is the staple of the Levis brand, it has evolved over the years to suit fashion trends of the time.
At once esoteric---with a sacred
status among so-called "denim
heads"---and a mainstream
wardrobe staple, the humble jean
remains one of the most deceptively
complex and mysterious garments
of all time; one that creates an emo-
tional connection with the wearer.
"It s a very personal thing because
of the uniqueness of the dyeing... as
you start to wear in your jeans they
kind of take on their own personality;
each wear pattern is unique to the
individual. It s something that you
wear over time and that moulds to
your body and takes on character,"
says Kara Nicholas, from historic
denim manufacturer Cone Denim.
Cone s White Oak mill in Greens-
boro, North Carolina, which pro-
duces all of the firm s authentic pre-
mium vintage denims and boasts a
collection of American Draper X3
model shuttle looms from the 1940s,
will celebrate its 110th anniversary
on April 20.
"There is a depth and dimension
that happens with those looms," says
Nicholas, for whom the authentic
denim trend began in the 80s, "when
people started collecting vintage
jeans and there was this idea of try-
ing to emulate or replicate that
We re always looking at the same
jeans from the turn of the century
throughout the 1900s for inspiration,
experimenting with the yarns or dif-
ferent dye formulas," she says.
From indigo rockabilly turn-ups
to bell-bottoms to the ongoing skin-
ny jean phenomenon (attributed to
French designer Hedi Slimane during
his stint at Dior Homme in the early
00s), since the second half of the
20th Century, jeans have been firmly
entrenched in the fashion landscape.
Their roots are wholly utilitarian,
Levi Strauss is credited as the co-
founder of the blue jean, created in
1873 in the wake of the California
Gold Rush that had taken place a
couple decades earlier.
On its website, Levi s shares the
story of the Bavarian-born Strauss,
who moved to San Francisco from
New York in 1853 to open a wholesale
dry goods business.
There he was approached by one
of his tailor customers, Jacob Davis,
who was looking for a business part-
ner to patent a trouser design fea-
turing rivets positioned at points of
strain to make them last longer.
The patent (for the process of put-
ting rivets in men s work trousers)
was granted to Jacob Davis and Levi
Strauss & Company on May 20, 1873,
creating a new category of workwear
and marking the birth of the blue
According to Levi s, the first blue
jean design---originally referred to as
XX "waist overalls"---had a single
back pocket with an Arcuate stitch-
ing design, a watch pocket, a cinch,
suspender buttons and a copper rivet
in the crotch.
The garment s main ingredient---
denim---is said to have originated in
the French town of Nîmes, with its
name an Americanisation of its local
moniker, Serge de Nîmes (in English,
Serge from Nîmes).
Characterised by a natural and
indigo warp and weft, the robust
cotton twill fabric in the 19th Cen-
tury was used to make trousers worn
by sailors from Genoa in Italy,
regarded by some as the ancestor of
the jean, with the French word for
Genoa---Gênes---said to have inspired
the word jean.
Billed as "riveted-for-strength
workwear made of true blue denim",
Levi s Two Horse brand leather
patch---created in 1886---depicted a
pair of jeans suspended between two
workhorses, as a symbol of strength.
In 1890, the XX model, which
went on to be adopted as the uniform
of horse wranglers out west, was
given the lot number "501".
A version with two back pockets
was introduced in 1901, with belt
loops added in 1922. The red tab was
added on the right back pocket of
the overalls in 1936 "to differentiate
Levi s overalls from the many com-
petitors in the marketplace who were
using dark denim and an Arcuate
stitch", according to Levi s.
As Hollywood Westerns sparked
an interest in the cowboy lifestyle,
blue jeans started filtering into the
mainstream in the 1930s, then bub-
bled up through youth culture in the
1950s under the influence of Holly-
wood rebels in jeans like James Dean.
...jeans have gone from
strength to strength
It's a very personal thing because of the uniqueness of
the dyeing... as you start to wear in your jeans they kind
of take on their own personality; each wear pattern is
unique to the individual. It's something that you wear
over time and that moulds to your body and takes on
Continues on Page A27
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