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1873 Levi Strauss Copper Rivet

The Unofficial Uniform of American Industry

May 20, 1873 marked the birth of Levi Strauss blue jeans: what would become a staple of American industry and culture, and eventually one of the most known garments in the world’s history. Born out of necessity, they were the result of a request by a miner’s wife to her local tailor (and Strauss’ future business partner), Jacob W. Davis, for work pants that could withstand the wear and tear of her husband’s industry. Adding rivets to key stress points in that pants (the crotch and the pockets) made all the difference, and became the basis for Davis’s and Strauss’s “Patent for Improvement in Fastening Pocket Openings” from the U.S. government and eventual business venture. Known as “waist overalls” until the 1950’s, they quickly became the favored work pant of Californian and Western industries, and, by the 1920’s, the favored work pant of all American industries, due to their unparalleled durability and revolutionary design. Their biggest selling point being they were durable, cheap and workable.

Following women’s entrance into industry during WWI, Levi Strauss produced the first female- oriented blue jean overall, called “Freedom-Alls”. This step in revolutionizing women’s fashion, indirectly challenged the status quo and supported their fight for equality.

In the 1930’s, Levi Strauss blue jeans came to be strongly associated with cowboys due to the emergence and popularity of the Western genre of film, and came to be worn by the wave of wealthy easterners coming west for adventures on dude ranches.

Following WW2, in the 1950’s, jeans came to be gradually more acceptable as leisure wear, taking on a rebellious youth connotation due to their association with James Dean, Marlon Brando and Elvis Prestley.

By the 1960s, they were considered common leisure wear by all generations, and, by the 1970s, they came to be fashion statements and status symbols worn by pop-culture style icons.

The success, legacy and longevity of Levi Strauss blue jeans can be attributed to their versatility and adaptability throughout the years. From their humble beginnings as a necessary innovation in American industrial fashion, they have become a universal staple and constant in the American economy.


1873 Levi Strauss Patent

On May 20, 1873, Levi Strauss and his business partner, Jacob W. Davis
received the patent for their revolutionary, fastening-rivet addition to blue jean work pants. Entitled “Patent for Improvement in Fastening Pocket Openings”, it would become the basis for their joint business venture. Already a highly successful and well-respected businessman and philanthropist in the Western United States, Strauss agreed to back Davis (a former customer and professional tailor) and his invention. Known as “waist overalls” until the 1950’s, they quickly became the favored work pant of Californian and Western industries, and, by the 1920’s, the favored work pant of all American industries, due to their unparalleled durability, a
ffordability and workability. From their humble beginnings as a necessary innovation in American industrial fashion, they have become a universal staple and constant in the American economy.

1. Original 1873 Levi Strauss Rivet

From their first year of production, these rivets are from one of the original pairs of Levi Strauss blue jean “waist-overalls” (as they were known until the 1950’s). The rivets were the heart of Levi Strauss blue jean work pants and the basis of their 1873 “Patent for Improvement in Fastening Pocket Openings”. They are what made them unique, setting them apart from the rest and making them a staple of American industry for decades to come. The result of a request by a miner’s wife to her local tailor (and Strauss’ future business partner), Jacob W. Davis, for work pants that could withstand the wear and tear of her husband’s industry, Levi Strauss blue jean “waist overalls” were born from the addition of rivets to key stress points in that pants (the crotch and the pockets). They quickly became the favored work pant of Californian and Western industries, and, by the 1920’s, the favored work pant of all American industries, due to their unparalleled durability and revolutionary, rivet-reinforced design.

2.Title:Historical/Original Early 1910's(?)Cowboy Ranch Photo

Cabinet Photo:  Early 20th century (Yellowstone) image of entire team of cowboys and work-hands in front of ranch bunkhouse in the Western United States (Specific information is unknown). Entire team sports the unofficial uniform of American Industry: Levi Strauss blue jean “waist overalls”.

Born out of necessity in May 1873, Levi Strauss blue jean were the result of a request by a miner’s wife to her local tailor (and Strauss’ future business partner), Jacob W. Davis, for work pants that could withstand the wear and tear of her husband’s industry. Adding rivets to key stress points in that pants (the crotch and the pockets) made all the difference, and became the basis for Davis’s and Strauss’s “Patent for Improvement in Fastening Pocket Openings” from the U.S. government and eventual business venture. Known as “waist overalls” until the 1950’s, they quickly became the favored work pant of Californian and Western industries, and, by the 1920’s, the favored work pant of all American industries, due to their unparalleled durability, affordability and revolutionary design.