Antecedents

Antecedents of Blue Jeans:

  • Trousers/Breeches
    • Wool
      • Wool trousers and breeches were extremely popular for many years, but in the line of work the California miners were a part of, the need for a lighter fabric with greater durability was imperative. Throughout the early 18th century, wool trousers were worn by all levels of society, but mostly blue collar workers, i.e. sailors, blacksmiths, and farmers wore trousers. The pants were cut into different lengths depending on the weather or amount of strenuous work the wearer was involved in.
    • Tent Canvas
      • The original pants Levi Strauss made for miners used a tent canvas fabric that was durable enough for rough work, but wearers of these pants did not like the scratchy feeling of the fabric against their skin.
    • Indigo Dye
      • From the Indigofera tinctoria flower in India, this dye is easy to use for dying fabrics and although used in Ancient Chinese, Russian, Egyptian, etc. civilizations, its important contribution to fabrics would be its use to dye serge de Nimes, or Denim. The fabric gave denim a pure coloring and allowed for fading.1)Jenny Balfour-Paul, “Indigo: From Bengal to Blue Jeans”, Marg: A Magazine of the Arts 65, no. 2 (Mumbai: 2013): 38-50.

 

  • Denim Fabric
    • Accidentally discovered in the town of Nimes, France, this fabric is a twill fabric that is dyed different shades of blue, originally with indigo dye taken from India. The fabric itself is considered durable and flexible, while maintaining adaptability to alterations.2)Kerry A. Flatley, “Where do blue jeans come from?”, (Boston: Christian Science Monitor, 1998): 8.
  • Serge Fabric
    • Twill fabric weaved with wool or silk that was usually used for military uniforms and can be easily dyed.3)Flatley, 1998. The word is derived from the Greek serikos, which means “silken,” suggesting that the fabric was probably brought to Europe from China.4)wiseGEEK, “What is Serge?”, (Sparks, NV: Conjecture Corporation). The fabric was used for centuries, with the peak of production occurring in the 16th century in France.

 

 

Picture Credit:

  • HISTORY.org, Trousers, accessed 25 April 2017, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, https://www.history.org/history/clothing/men/mglossary.cfm.
  • Pancrat, Ilnflorescence, accessed 25 April 2017, Tropical Plants Database, http://tropical.theferns.info/image.php?id=Indigofera+tinctoria.

References   [ + ]

1. Jenny Balfour-Paul, “Indigo: From Bengal to Blue Jeans”, Marg: A Magazine of the Arts 65, no. 2 (Mumbai: 2013): 38-50.
2. Kerry A. Flatley, “Where do blue jeans come from?”, (Boston: Christian Science Monitor, 1998): 8.
3. Flatley, 1998.
4. wiseGEEK, “What is Serge?”, (Sparks, NV: Conjecture Corporation).