What California Is Known For: The Invention of Blue Jeans

What California Is Known For: The Invention of Blue Jeans

By Rachael Medina
Staff Writer July 18, 2019

From boyfriend jeans and high-waisted jeans, to blue jeans and black jeans, denim has conquered the world—but it all began in California. 

Early History of Jeans

Who invented blue jeans?

While denim pants had existed for years before blue jeans were invented, it was the innovative design from Jacob Davis and the entrepreneurial spirit of Levi Strauss that started the revolution. Twenty years before the invention of jeans, Strauss had just moved from New York—where he owned a dry-goods company with his brother—to San Francisco to open his own dry-goods business that would serve the local general stores. Since this was during the Gold Rush, Strauss met several working men, including customer Jacob Davis, and realized there was a gap in the market when it came to sturdy clothing that would hold up against on-the-job physical demands. 

Blue jeans were invented in 1873 by San Francisco entrepreneur Levi Strauss and tailor Jacob Davis, leading to a clothing revolution in California and beyond.

Recomended businesses

Show me
Recommended Businesses near

Discover the best of California. Our recommended businesses are top-quality and are committed to their communities.

Real Estate



Professional Services


What Were Jeans Originally Made Of?

Fast forward two decades to 1873, when the wife of a local worker asked Davis to create a pair of pants for her husband that would be more sturdy and wouldn’t fall apart under everyday stresses. After considering ways to reinforce the pockets and the base of the button-up fly—the usual suspects when it came to work pants falling apart—Davis made use of copper rivets in those critical areas. While the materials for work pants, or “overalls”, had already been invented, they simply needed structural improvements. 

The term “jeans” evolved from a cotton and wool fabric that was imported from Genoa, Italy to England in the 16th century; this blended material was called “jean”. Two centuries later, jean was made entirely from cotton and other, sturdier fabrics that had come into popularity. Among these fabrics was denim, which also derived its name from its place of origin. The result of an attempt to recreate the famous material from Genoa, this new cotton corduroy fabric was originally crafted in Nîmes, France and called “Serge de Nîmes”. This fabric differed from jean in that it was a twill fabric made from two or more indigo-dyed threads, which passed on top of undyed threads—leading to a material that was indigo on the outside but white on the inside. It was this denim material that Davis purchased from Strauss and used along with the copper rivets to create the jeans that we know and love today. 

Though jeans can now be found in just about anybody's closet, they were originally designed for men who needed sturdy, durable pants for their blue-collar jobs. 

The Birth of Levi’s Men’s Jeans 

The birth of blue jeans owes its thanks to the “improvement in fastening pocket-openings” patent that allowed Levi’s to become so successful and blue jeans to become so prevalent. This version of “waist overalls” was an instant success and was patented in 1873—the same year it was invented—with the help of Davis’ business partner, Levi Strauss. 

The anniversary of blue jeans is celebrated on May 20, 1873, but back then, the pants were not called jeans, nor were they created for everyone; at their inception, they were specifically men’s jeans. 

Sixty one years after the creation of blue jeans, Levi's introduced the first pair of women's jeans, which became popularized over the years by Hollywood actors such as Marilyn Monroe. 

The Creation of Women’s Jeans

It wasn’t until 1934 that Levi’s introduced the first pair of women’s jeans, after which the company doubled the potential customer base and opened the door for the widespread adoption of the pants, popularizing the term “jeans”. 

James Dean and other Hollywood actors also helped to make jeans trendy and cool, both on and off the set. Rather than being a necessity simply for the working class, denim transformed into an everyday staple that now graces the closets of nearly every Californian—and has even been named the official state fabric of California. 

Today, there are various jean styles that can be found around the world, including ripped jeans, jeggings, skinny jeans, and boyfriend jeans. 

Beyond Blue Jeans

Today, Levi’s and their many competitors have designed pants with open minds, introducing everything from black jeans and ripped jeans, to denim jeans and stretchy jeans (aka “jeggings”)—and even the denim jacket. 

Levi’s has also been integral in launching comprehensive codes of conduct that spread across factory departments and encompass ethics, legal requirements, standards, working hours, wages, and more. Now, environmental regulations and the health impacts of chemicals used to craft jeans hold the primary focus of innovation in the industry, all led by the efforts of Levi’s. 

It is hard to imagine a world without blue jeans, and while it is hard to say what the future holds for jeans, it is clear that they are here to stay. 

Staff Writer
Rachael Medina

Staff Writer Rachael Medina

Rachael Medina is the senior content writer and operations manager for She was born and raised just outside the Mojave Desert in Southern California and moved to the redwood forests o…

See full bio


author photo
Please enter text

You may also like


15 Things to Do in Solvang You Haven’t Thought of Yet

Solvang is the ultimate destination if you long for international travel experiences within the Golden State....Read more


10 Things To Do in Sonoma You Haven't Thought of Yet

From discovering natural wonders to going on a safari, here are the best things to do in the Sonoma Valley....Read more


The California Black-Owned Businesses You Need to Know About

Do your part in promoting diversity and equality by supporting Black-owned businesses in California. Here are a few of our …...Read more


Life-Changing Self-Care Products From California Brands

From essential oils and supplements to face masks and serums, these are the best self-care products that’ll change your life....Read more