Presented by Levi's
It is difficult to believe but our perceptions of jeans have gone through more variation than any other clothing in our daily wear. To start, there are the names, from jeans to denim, and the occasional dungaree. Then there is fit, from baggy to slim. Don’t forget about the washes and whether it is done by stones, acid, bleach or just simply raw. And that’s all before choosing colors and sizes. Conversely, denim also added our outfit options — no longer are we limited to just suits, shirts and tie.
No one is quite certain when or where the very first pair of jeans came from but many historians point to the port city of Genoa on the northern coast of Italy. Already a famous trading post during the Middle Ages, this former city-state was also known for its thriving textile industry. And it was around the 1500s when sailors and longshoremen started to wear trousers made of denim, durable cotton twill meant to last. From there, the style propagated throughout Europe, though viewed by most as lowly work wear or pauper’s cloths. It took another two hundred years before someone laid the foundation to create denim, as we know it today.
Like so many immigrants then and now, Levi Strauss sought new opportunities and a new life in the U.S. Not long after he left Germany for New York City, he migrated westward once again to San Francisco, a thriving city fueled by the California Gold Rush. It was there he met tailor and fellow immigrant Jacob Davis, who had an interesting proposition: work pants with copper rivets reinforcement. The concept intrigued Strauss, who later formed a partnership with Davis, now known as Levi Strauss & Company, and helped the rest of the world to “discover” the most versatile clothing known to men.
Also known as a catalyst for self-expression, denim helped to shape and even create many of the styles we know today. Here are just some of the iconic styles with a denim update.
Work wear made from canvas twill has been around since the time when men learned how to make textiles. Yet, one that held up to the daily grind, wear and tear, was elusive until the Levi Strauss & Company introduced the 501 Original Fit to miners during the California Gold Rush.
A look that’s so relatable to denim, it is difficult to imagine a cowboy wearing something else. Though worn just like any work wear, the Barstow Western Shirt is durable and a number one choice for cowboys (and those who aspire to be).
As cowboys traded-in their trusted steeds for modern updates, so too went their nomadic lifestyles. But a few held on to the nomadic notion and recreated it in the form of bikers and motorcycle clubs. While their horses now have strange names like Harley-Davidson, their expression of unconstrained freedom lives on with a pair of denim, preferably something slim, like the Levi’s® 508™.
Christian Hosoi never had it so good…With its Nike Skateboarding collaboration as a catalyst to jump start the entire venture, the Levi’s 511 Slim Fit Stretch has a ruggedness that not only protects skaters from minor nicks, the construction is also more lasting thanks to a mix of fabrics of both old and new, such as Cordura and Lycra.
A complete contradiction at first glance, Levi’s actually made the cycling-centric 511 from its Commuter Series, a success. Already a popular trend in Tokyo where streetwear brands would add Gore-Tex lamination and reflective lining to keep riders dry in the rain and safe during night riding, Levi’s added its own touch from stretchable materials to 3M Scotchlite tapes on the interior cuffs. Thus, the popular Levi’s Commuter Serieswas born.
A must-have for country musicians, Levi’s 510 Skinny Fit denim sets the tone for punk, grunge and, of course, rock’n’roll. However, it’s more than just style for these musicians. When you’re on the road touring nearly everyday of the week, the last thing you need to worry about is a “wardrobe malfunction.”
Though immortalized by the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, denim has been the uniform of choice of tech entrepreneurs since the formation of Silicon Valley. While still very much work wear, Jobs’ appearances in his Levi’s 501 inspired other wannabe entrepreneurs around the world to adopt the style.
The search for the next fashion trends have led to some very interesting concepts recently, including denim designs heavily infused with cultural references. Then there are those that helped to propagate the culture itself, like the faded Levi’s 501 worn by Bruce Springsteen on the cover of his album “Born In the USA”. Bruce’s album cover didn’t just help Levi’s in sales, but it also cemented the 501’s place in American culture.
Thanks to denim’s practicality and versatility, like the simple Levi’s Denim Shirt, we can dress however we want on a daily basis. It also takes away the headache of pairing outfits and matching wardrobe. For a moment, just imagine a world where denim never propagated beyond its work wear origin, the availability of causal clothing would be limited. And while everyone would looked like they’re from the set of Mad Men, you’d have to dress up in your Sunday Best just get something from the street corner bodega.