Blue jeans were initially a man's work garment. Around 1890, farm boys began wearing jeans. The design was exactly the same as the work clothes worn by factory workers, farmers and ranch hands. Then, in 1912, Simon Davis invented, "Koveralls." They were manufactured in Frankfort, Indiana by Levis Strauss and by 1915, were being worn nationally. Only worn in the west previously, jeans became popular in the eastern cities by the end of WWII. By the 1920's, they were known as Levis� because Levis Strauss was the first and largest of the blue jean companies.
When the stock market crashed in October, 1929, the jean industry was hard hit. Sales declined. Levi Strauss had problems and workers were given a short work week in lieu of layoffs.
The Great Depression brought with it a decline in sales, but also had an indirect positive impact on the blue jean industry. Because the denim factory that jeans were made of was so durable, dirt poor American families used their meager wages to purchase them. They were a great investment because they outlasted other types of clothing. The patterns set during the Dirty Thirties carried over into the next decade.
Heroes of the Silver screen, such as John Wayne and Tom Mix, had great influence over the jean industry. Boys wanted to dress like their idols and their idols wore blue Levis�. It wasn't long until blue jeans were being worn by the boys in the large, eastern cities. This lead Levi Strauss to introduce his red Levis� label and the company made sure it was sewn onto the back pocket of every pair of jeans that it produced. The label on the outside of the jeans was a first in the clothing industry.
When America went to war in 1941, restrictions were put on raw textiles by the US government. The only people who were allowed to wear jeans were defense workers. At first Levis� thought the restrictions would hurt their business. In fact, it worked exactly the opposite. The soldiers and defense workers overseas wore Levis� when they were off duty. The people in liberated countries wanted all things American - and Levis� were American.
After the war, the popularity of blue jeans flourished. Adults began to wear them with the T-shirts that had been worn by members of the US military during the war. Mothers bought the durable jeans for their sons.
Blue jeans were the "wildfire" of the fashion industry during the 1950's. Boys wore them to grade school, though secondary school prohibited them. When the movie Rebel Without a Cause, starring James Dean was released, jeans became the latest craze. Every teenager wanted a pair of Levis�.
In the 1960's, jeans were produced as short pants in Europe and the United Kingdom. Short blue jean trends didn't hit America until the 1970's.
Levi Strauss� changed its marketing tactics in the 1950's. They surged ahead into the future, focusing on the Baby Boomer generation and the popularity of jeans. They began producing lighter colors, double knees and jeans with zippers. The decade of the 1950's revolutionized the blue jean industry.
Levi Strauss was a trend setter in more ways than one. His company opened a factory in Blackstone, Virginia and he insisted that it be fully integrated. At the time, this was unheard of. Levi Strauss� had endeared himself to Black Americans and they repaid him by buying his jeans.
In 1961, Levi Strauss took his blue jeans to Paris, France. They were an instant hit. Still, Levis� didn't start exporting jeans until later. In 1963, pre-shrunk Levis� were introduced, followed by wrinkle free STA-PRESS� slacks in 1964. The next year, Levi Strauss International was born and blue jeans were introduced to Europe and Asia. Levis� first television commercial aired in 1966, reaching thousands of viewers world-wide. The same year, the company exhibited its wares in Moscow, Prague and Warsaw.
Levis� continued their marketing strategies through the next two decades. Jeans began to be accepted as fashionable. In 1986, Levi Strauss International� released Dockers� in the US. They were an instant success. The blue jean craze was spreading like wildfire world-wide and it appeared it would go on forever. By 1977, Levi Strauss� was the largest clothing conglomerate in the world.
The decade of the 1980's brought a decline in sales. To re-establish their profits, Levis� promoted its clothing by sponsoring the 1984 Olympics. The ploy didn't work. Gross sales were down. Levis�, like many other companies at the time, began to make cut-backs. By the end of the 1980's sales had began to increase once again.
During the 1990's, Levis introduced a series of creative finishes to their line. Bleaching and stonewash jeans went through the check-outs of department stores faster than they could be unloaded in receiving. The Levi Strauss Company� was once again sitting on top of the blue jean world.
Today, the "dirty" look is vanishing and original indigos made of stretch denim are "in." What trends are in store for the early 21st century? It's anybody's guess, but blue jeans will continue to be popular for many years to come.
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