The History Of The World’s Most Famous Work Trousers

For as long as there has been working people, there has been a need for sturdy and robust men’s workwear, and whilst there have been a range of padded textiles used for the purpose over the years, the industrial revolution required clothes strong enough to handle a new way of working.

The solution initially came from France and Italy, before spreading across the world.

Genoa, a maritime city in the north of Italy, is believed to be the location where jeans were invented, as a hard-wearing, relatively inexpensive textile that could be used instead of corduroy.

As it could be worn wet as well as dry, it was part of the uniform for the Genoese navy and would become such a crucial textile that it would become immortalised in paintings by an artist known as The Master of the Blue Jeans.

This clothing, along with a similar thick cotton cloth known as “dungri” in Hindi, would become the standard for workwear in England and much of Europe through the 18th and 19th centuries.

However, it would be when denim was exported to the United States that jeans would develop their reputation for hard wear and robustness.

Jacob Davis, originally from Latvia, frequently travelled from Reno, Nevada to visit a store in San Francisco that had been established in 1858 by Levi Strauss.

Mr Davis, a tailor by trade, was frequently asked by customers to reinforce torn pants using the hard cloth, in the same way the elbows of donkey jackets were reinforced at the elbows to avoid rips.

During these frequent trips, he had the idea to reinforce the points of strain on the trousers using small copper rivets, but as he could not afford the price of the patent, he would go into business with Mr Strauss to create a reinforced jean style intended for factory work, mining and farming.

He would eventually mass produce these trousers, eventually creating the Levi 501 jeans in the late 1890s that would become the standard not only for jeans but for other work trousers in general.