Gold was discovered in California in 1849. This resulted in more than eighty thousand American’s rushing to California. The pioneering spirit spread and by 1890, the West’s population reached nearly 17 million. The west became the most racially diverse part of the country. All were in search of a better life for themselves and their families, seeking what would become known as the American Dream. During this time innovation and creation were prompting remarkable growth in industry. New products that made life more tolerable were spreading to all classes of people. One popular item of clothing that can trace its roots to the Gold Rush is blue jeans. Blue jeans grew out of necessity but they now represent the spirit of the west and the ideals of America. Blue jeans are seen all across the world as an American symbol, perhaps the ultimate American icon.
The best way to understand why blue jeans are revered is to first learn about their history. The history of blue jeans began with Levi Strauss. In 1847 Levi Strauss emigrated from Bavaria, now part of southern Germany, to New York. Once news of the Gold Rush reached New York, Levi Strauss packed up his belongings and headed west. In 1853, Levi Strauss reached San Francisco California, where he officially became an American citizen. Strauss was not there to search for gold. He moved west to open a branch of the family’s dry good business. He did business with many miners and began to understand their needs. A miner’s foremost need was for stronger clothing, especially pants.
Levi Strauss began making pants, known then as waist overalls. Levi Strauss contacted his family in New York and told them of his new venture. He asked them to order as much canvas as possible. Strauss experimented with all aspects of pant making. He tested different materials and found denim to be the strongest. He tried many different dyes. He decided on a deep-blue indigo-blue, since it was easy to replicate the shade. With the indigo-blue color and denim fabric combination blue jeans were born.
The new pants took on a new name, denim blue jeans. They were tough, reasonably priced, and lasted longer than any pant before. Blue jeans accommodated the lifestyle of the hard-workers such as miners, rancher, farmers, railroad workers, and teachers. Life out west was tough, work was hard, and da...
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... a denim art contest in 1973. The winning pants were shown off to the public on an 18-month tour of American museums. In the 70s, more styles of jeans were emerging. Bell-bottoms first appeared in 1970. Until 1970, blue jeans were designed to fit men. That changed in the early 70s when the first jeans made to fit women were introduced. The popularity of blue jeans allowed Levi Strauss and Company to become the largest clothing maker in the world during 1977.
Blue jeans continued to be a popular item through the 1980’s, which is often considered the decade of designer jeans. Since an increasing number of companies were creating jeans, labels became an important element of the pants. Jeans were fashionable, and worn more for look than for durability. Blue jeans remained a popular item of clothing through out the remainder of the 20th century, and into the 21st. Levi Strauss and Company’s sales for 2001 were 4.3 billion dollars. The styles are constantly changing to accommodate the needs and desires of the consumers. Blue jeans were originally created as a uniform for the lower class worker, but they have become a symbol of American ingenuity, ambition, individuality, and success.
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