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Digital Subscriptions > History Revealed > October 2016 > When did people start wearing jeans?

When did people start wearing jeans?

Today they’re among the world’s most popular items of clothing, but denim jeans were first devised not in the name of fashion but to withstand tough working conditions. Miners in Nevada complained that their garments were easily torn, so in 1871, tailor Jacob Davis developed hardy trousers made from heavy ‘duck cloth’ canvas or blue denim, with strengthened metal fastenings. He secured a patent in May 1873 with the financial backing of businessman Levi Strauss, and the business quickly took off .

By the 1890s, ‘waist overalls’ made from the more flexible denim were favoured. Jeans moved beyond the working classes, and in the 1930s became part of the casual wear of young Americans. By the 1950s, they were widespread among rebellious youths, and had passed into mainstream fashion by the 1970s. And the name? ‘Jeans’ is possibly a corruption of Gênes, the French word for Genoa, where the fabric was first made.

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The November 2016 issue of History Revealed.