High rise, skinny fit or low waist, men, women or oldies, who doesn't own a pair of jeans these days?
But its history dates back to the 1800s and as per urban folklore, they were invented by Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss in 1873 and were worn for a very different purpose.
Jeans were named after the city of Genoa in Italy, a place where a material called cotton corduroy, locally known as 'Jeane', was manufactured. Levi Strauss who had come from Germany to New York in 1851, joined his older brother at their family's goods store and in 1853 he moved to San Francisco to establish the Western Branch of the business.
Jacob W. Davis, a tailor from Reno, Nevada was one of his regular customers. One day, one of Davis' customers ordered a pair of sturdy pants that could undergo extremely rough use. He made them from denim that he bought from Levi Strauss & Co and made them stronger by placing copper rivets at points of strain, that is, at pockets and flies.
He wanted to patent them, so he wrote a letter to Levi Strauss, requesting him to become partners. He agreed and later they opened a bigger factory, and that is how jeans as we know it today, were born.
But where did Strauss stumble upon denim?
Jeans are often associated with North America, but the material they are made from actually originates from Nimes, South France. The word "denim" was derived from the French "serge de Nimes", meaning "a sturdy fabric from Nimes". But the fabric is no longer produced anywhere in France.
Nimes once had a booming textile industry, home to large textile factories manufacturing various types of fabrics.
Thousands of people worked in textiles in the city during the rise of this industry which would include dying cotton, wool and silk.
Many of these fabrics were exported to North America which was finally discovered, well, by businessman Levi Strauss in 1867. Strauss used this new fabric, renamed it as denim and created the very legendary blue jeans.
But the city’s business died. The river that was used by the dyers was laid underground, old factories were repurposed, and the city's economy turned service-led. Denim in general gained popularity but due to change in fashion tastes, demand for many of Nimes' fabrics fell. The production eventually moved to cheaper locations in Europe and then Asia, and vanished from the region all together.
But recently, entrepreneur Guillaume Sagot, has taken up arms against it and is all set to revive denim at its root location.
"I had to start completely from scratch," he tells.
"There is no-one left in Nimes who can make jeans. I found a tailor in Marseille who taught me how to make them and I now do most of the work myself by hand. The factory in Marseille puts all the components of the jeans together," says the 31-year old designer.
Despite those pressures, back in his Ateliers de Nimes workshop, Guillaume Sagot seems real optimistic. He aims to produce jeans entirely made in France, right from the denim to the buttons and rivets.
"My dream is to open two factories in Nimes. One that makes denim and the other that creates jeans," he says.
"The jeans are for people who really appreciate good denim, and want jeans that last and that are distinctive," Sagot explains. "Each model is hand-made and individually numbered so you know that the jeans you are wearing are unique."
Every pair is handcrafted and, we daresay, very costly, but their demand is increasing. They have started selling online and the company is growing.
Let’s hope that Sagot achieves what he aims and is able to bring Denim back to France, the place where it actually belongs.
Title image: jackjonesblog