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The Fascinating History Of Levi Jeans
The origin of Levis really did not start with Leob Strauss, that was Leob who later changed his name to Levi. This fascinating story begins with his partner Jacob Davis. Leob is a dry goods trader in San Francisco. Davis is a garment manufacturer who bought his supplies from Leob. Davis came to Strauss in 1872 with a new idea for making work pants known as coats more durable. Davis responded to the miners’ complaints that their clothes simply did not last long in difficult working conditions. The seams of their pockets and the buttons that close the waist and fly were easily torn.
In 1871 Davis tried to use copper rivets to strengthen the seams. With rivets he can also attach layers of thick material. His new, sturdy, durable work pants quickly became popular not only among miners but also “hardworking men on the American border” as farm workers and herdsmen. Little copper yarn revolutionized work clothes.
In 1872, Davis agreed to partner with Strauss in exchange for financing Strauss to patent the rivet concept.
In 1873, with the patent approval, Davis and Strauss immediately began producing their work pants. They formed Levi Strauss & Company. “LS&CO” is embossed on every copper rivet. It still appears on Levi rivets to this day.
Levi Strauss & Company purchased their cotton yarn from Amoskeag Manufacturing Company in Manchester, New Hampshire. It is the longest lasting fabric known as “XX”. This became the name of the first style of Levi jeans. It is also the cheapest fabric, as the indigo blue dye is derived from plants grown and enslaved by slaves in India, and cotton is widely produced by plantations in the south. In a few years, this plant-based dye from India will be replaced by a cheaper synthetic dye recently developed in Germany and manufactured by BASF Corporation.
The next invention of jeans appeared in 1886, when Levis began production with a special leather pad on the back of the jeans. The first image or symbol is a pair of jeans pulled between two horses without tearing. This leather badge on the back waist of jeans is now a common feature of almost all jeans manufacturers to this day.
These early jeans were called “waist pants”. They have two pockets on the front and one on the back, along with another small “watch pocket” sewn inside one of the front pockets, a feature still seen on jeans today. They also have straps and buckles on the back of the waist belt that act like a belt to hold the pants around the waist. And finally, they also have rivets on the waist to attach the supenders.
Another distinctive feature of the Levi jeans is the stitched design with the ribbon seen on the back pocket of almost every Levi jeans to this day. It is called “arcuate” stitch design. It is believed to have held the cotton fabric in place in the initial manufacturing process. But no one knows for sure since all records were lost in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
During World War II, the thread was divided and so this unnecessary seam was discarded. However, it is so popular that the design is painted on the back pocket. Jeans rarely sell for tens of thousands of dollars today!
Since then, Levi Strauss & Co has created a wide range of jeans brands – slim fit, casual shoes, two-way fit and stretch. There are currently 15 styles. When each patent expired, other manufacturers quickly copied the design. However, Levi Strauss & Co. Remains the world’s leading manufacturer and seller of jeans.
Today Levi Strauss & Co. Together with Gap Jeans lead another major challenge in the garment industry. Both jeans makers are at the top of their industry in advocating for the rights of high-wage workers and the termination of child labor, according to watchdog Free2Work.org. You can support these efforts by simply purchasing jeans from a manufacturer that is highly rated by this organization.
Credit to the information in this article goes to “Denim”, by Birgit Lohmann, Levi.com and Free2Work.org.
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