On May 20, 1873, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis received a patent to create work pants with reinforced metal rivets near the fabric’s stress points. Like that would ever catch on…
Born Loeb Strauss in Buttenheim, Bavaria, Strauss worked for his family’s dry goods business shortly after arriving in the United States in the mid-1800s. He got antsy-in-the-pantsy when he heard the marvelous stories from miners of the California gold rush and decided to try his luck.
He failed. Miserably.
This dude did not…
Strauss decided to set up shop under his family’s name as a dry goods distributor to miners of San Francisco, and became instantly successful. His firm’s specialty was importing fabric to small shops around the California gold-mining region as industry surrounding the gold rush blossomed. Good call.
By 1866 Strauss was ballin’ out of control. He had a big, brand-new headquarters in San Francisco and plenty of business coming his way. Just when he thought things couldn’t get any better – he received a letter.
The letter was written to him by Jacob Davis. (The tailor so nice they named him twice.) He was writing with regard to an idea he had about reinforced pant pockets using metal fasteners. Davis was short on dough, so he proposed Strauss and him implement the idea to his existing product – and split the patent.
All his denim pants were then outfitted with metal rivets at the corners of each pocket, and the base of the fly.
(The fly rivet was removed in 1941 due to complaints by cowhands on the range. They claimed that after kickin’ it by the fire for too long – the rivet conducted some serious heat. It was removed permanently after Levi Strauss President, Walter A. Haas, experienced this first hand… or first crotch rather.)
“Waist Overalls” (They called them this until the 1930s…) were introduced to consumers in the famous “501” style in 1890 for the first time. This remains the most popular pair of jeans on the market today.
Jeans now come in hundreds of shapes, styles, brand names and sizes. Some of which would most likely make Strauss and Davis cringe… I’m talking to you bellbottoms. However, the once humble workpants have become an international sensation – some costing thousands of dollars… yikes.
An original pair of Levi Strauss 501s (late 1800s) recently sold at a Japanese auction for more than $60,000. I wonder if my old JNCOs will be worth something one day…
Secret Circus, an obnoxious designer brand we peasants don’t know about, offer a pair of jeans worth $1.3 million. The jeans are bejeweled with real diamonds on the back pocket… now that’s a big booty for you.
As far as we know, jeans aren’t going anywhere. This staple of the American wardrobe has truly stood the test of time. They remain the perfect attire for digging a ditch, riding a motorcycle or waiting in line for 5 hours outside of the hip, new club called “Atlantis”. So next time you throw on a pair of Levi’s from the thrift store… check the tags. History can be profitable.