The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.


                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.

The People News
Special Report






Blue Jeans
- more American than Apple Pie

by Alexandra Edwards

After several years of  protests from students, parents and some elected officials over the school dress code, the Bradley County School system agreed last semester to allow blue jeans back as part of acceptable school attire.

American students have been wearing blue jeans to school for generations, just ask your parents and grandparents. But why?  Probably because the denim fabric they are made from is not only comfortable, it is  strong, durable, and easy to launder. Blue jeans are versatile, they can be worn with both dress shirts or casual shirts and tops. They color coordinate with  almost every color in the wardrobe.  Blue jeans come in a variety of styles and can be one piece overalls or waisted pants. Some readers may remember the 1960's TV show Dennis the Menace about a cute mischievous little boy clad in blue overalls (dungarees,) who was always aggravating his neighbor Mr. Wilson.

Over the years we have seen many styles of blue jeans; drain-pipe jeans, hipster jeans,  flared jeans, designer jeans, boot-cut jeans, 5-pocket jeans, straight leg jeans, low rise, high

Alexandra Edwards

waist, relaxed, western, stone-washed, pre-washed, sand-blasted the list goes on. Fashion history has proved that no matter what style blue jean is presently in vogue, it will always later make a come-back. 

There is no doubt about it, blue jeans are as American as apple pie, have been around for

decades and are here to stay. Almost everyone no matter what age  has or have had at least one pair of jeans in their closet. So lets take a look at how denim pants became part of  America's heritage.

The names "Denim" and "Jean" actually date back to the 17th century. Denim is said to be an English corruption of the French serge de Nimes, a serge/twill fabric from the town of Nimes, France.  Around the same time there was another fabric known as "Jean" a fustian made of cotton/ linen/ wool blend, from Genoa, Italy.

Both denim and jean became very popular and were imported to England. The two fabrics were very similar in appearance with only one major difference. Denim was made of one colored thread and one white thread, whereas jean was woven of two threads of the same color.

Settlers from the cotton mills of England were producing heavy cotton twill waist pants (jeans)  in

the United States as early as 1638. In 1789 George Washington was said to have toured a mill in Massachusetts that was weaving both denim and jean.  Americans wedded the two fabric milling techniques and used one thread dyed Indigo blue, a natural dye extracted from plants from the Americas and India, with the other thread a natural white.

During the California Gold Rush, demand was strong from miners wanting durable clothes that did not tear easily.  In 1853 Levi Strauss who had spent a number of years learning the fabric trade in New York,  came to San Francisco to set up a wholesale store. The strong

denim fabric pants produced successfully met the demand of the gold miners. One of Strauss' regular customers, a tailor  named Jacob Davis, had been  making riveted clothing in the Reno, Nevada area. After hearing miners complaints of how pockets were easily ripped off their pants, Davis, who did not have much money, offered Strauss a deal if he would pay for the patent to make copper-riveted pocket waist pants. This denim was the only pant material to use riveted pockets that created what we now call jeans. Strauss became a very successful businessman and is considered to be the founder of today's prized blue jeans worn by both men and women.

The oldest pair of blue jeans to exist were said to be those found in an abandoned silver mine in the Mojave Desert. The jeans estimated to have been made around 1890,  were found in 1948 by a woman who patched them up and wore them for a while before selling them to Levi Strauss for $25 plus some new jeans.

In the 1930's, Western movies made jeans more

popular when actors portrayed the authentic cowboy clad in well worn, rugged jeans. Western movies made folks back East head out West to buy these very popular pairs of breeches.

During World War ll, due to restrictions of raw materials, in an effort to conserve metal and fabric, the crotch rivet and back cinch of  the jeans were removed. Although the war caused a decline in production, the All-American style of the blue jeans worn by off duty GI's, were admired around the world.

After the war, Wrangler and Lee began to compete with Levi Strauss who had  started selling its products outside the American West for the first time.

Blue jeans became popular with teenagers after the rebellious and controversial movie "Rebel Without a Cause" starring James Dean. In 1958 a syndicated newspaper reported that "about 90 percent of American youths wear jeans everywhere except in bed and in church."

By the 1960's, during the time of flower power, hippies were wearing painted psychedelic and sequined jeans.

Jeans became a symbol of Western culture or decadence which bought a demand for them from Eastern countries "behind the iron curtain" where exceedingly high prices would be offered even for a used pair.

Sales of jeans rocketed in the 1980's when the label of a designer became vogue. The new, more expensive designer label gave jeans a more up-market look.  Many of you will remember in the same era, teenage model Brooke Shields appeared in a television commercial clad in her tight Calvin Klein jeans stating "nothing stood in the way of her and her Calvins."  The 80's trend for the all leather brand  name white sports shoes that happened to team  so well with designer jeans, reinforced sales.

There was however a drop in the sale of traditional jeans during the rebellious 90's when teenagers did not feel it was "cool" to be  wearing the same clothes as their parents. Although denim was still popular with youths, it came in different fabrics and styles or in the form of aged, authentic, vintage jeans found in second-hand stores and thrift shops. This new "grunge" trend was trouble for the leading  jeans industries. Levi Strauss & Co had to close eleven factories.

Today in the twenty-first century, blue jeans still dominate the teenage fashion but come in more styles and textures. They also come in all shapes and sizes to fit most body shapes. We even have the "stretch" denim for those that still like to squeeze inside them yet have room to breath. For those that can no longer squeeze into regular jeans, there's the elasticated waist.

As for students wearing jeans to school, here's a little phrase to remember: "Jeans are here to stay and they are OK, so long as they're worn the right way."