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Aha Moment Maker: Where’d You Get Those Jeans?

by OIC Staff on December 7, 2013


EUROPE, 1650—It’s hard to think of something more “American” than a good old pair of blue jeans. As it happens, historians have long argued the origin of the iconic trousers, and America might not even have a leg to stand on in the debate!

The French make their case with a sturdy fabric that originated in the 17th century in Nimes, France. Pants made from the fabric “serge de Nimes” were favored by plantation workers for their durability. Since fabrics at that time were commonly named for their place of origin, it became known as “de Nimes,” which is widely considered the source of the word “denim.”

Around the same time in Genoa, Italy, they developed a thick, durable twill cloth popular with sailors for its toughness. Named for Genoa, or “Genes” in French, we know it today as “jeans” in English.

The Italians’ claim was boosted early this century by art historians, who believe they discovered the first depiction of blue jeans in 17th Century Italian paintings. The unknown artist’s blue tint of the fabric was even painted with the exact same indigo used to dye today’s denim.

Of course, none of this stops Levi Strauss & Co. from claiming that it is the true creator of the world’s first blue jeans. The company patented blue jeans in 1873 and contends that the lack of clear written historical records render the other claims a matter of opinion.

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 Image © iStockphoto



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