Documentary Transcript

“I’m Megan, I’m Rachel, I’m Khayla, and I’m Anna and this is our documentary on blue jeans!”

“Before we had jeans the typical man would wear wool pants. California miners needed pants that had a lighter fabric and were more durable for the work they were doing. Because of this need for stronger pants Levi Strauss made pants made from tent canvas he later on moved to denim fabric by accident but it was very durable and flexible. There are plenty of antecedents to denim jeans, for example, trousers and breeches. 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. 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. Serge Fabric, twill fabric weaved with wool or silk that is usually used for military uniforms and can be easily dyed. Denim Fabric, aAccidentally 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.”

“Denim Jeans are a classic staple in American Fashion. but jeans got their start far from the fashion world. In 1853 German immigrant Levi Strauss started the production of jeans but it wasn’t until 1873 that the product got patent approved. But his story starts much earlier than that.  Strauss was born in 1829 in the small town of Buttenheim, Bavaria.  He grew up with several brothers and sisters with his mother and father.  Although, he moved to upstate new york with his mother and siblings after his father died from tuberculosis.

When he arrived to New York with his family, he met up with some of his older brothers who were current business owners to J. Strauss Brother & Company. Levi eventually joined the family business and traveled to San Francisco to become the family representative. He even renamed the company “Levi Strauss & Co.” in order to gain success within the business.  In 1871, Levi received a letter from russian immigrant named Jacob Davis who was interested in creating a new pair of pants that were durable enough in a work environment. Therefore, in May of 1873, Levi and Jacob  created the first pair of patent approved blue jeans. The product gained massive success and Levi was the president of the company until his death. He died at the age of 72 on September 26th 1902. He left his company to his nephew and who became the president of it.”

“The first pair of jeans are not what one would call jeans but rather, overalls. These overalls were worn by workers, those who found themselves in need a pair of pants suitable for working in mud, mines, and in factories. They were able to withstand the harsh conditions that workers had to face. Though the material was extremely durable, it wasn’t always considered comfortable. In 1873,  Levi Strauss branched together with tailor Jacob Davis to find a way to make the jeans more comfortable. With the collaboration of the two, they were able to come up with brass rivets. These rivets allowed for the material to be even stronger, but most importantly it allowed for the lining to be held in place causing for a more comfortable wear. Though the invention was already set in motion, they still needed to legally own all the rights. On May 20, 1873 marked an historic day: the birth of the blue jean. It was on that day that Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis obtained the U.S. patent on the process of putting rivets in men’s work pants for the very first time.  The company was growing, growing faster than most expected. Even though there was a high demand for Levi Strauss and his denim jeans , Levi was still involved in the day-to-day workings of the company. In 1890 — the year that the XX waist overall was given the lot number “501®” — Levi and his nephews officially incorporated the company.

Levi Jeans were popular amongst the working class, but it wasn’t until Hollywood started using them in their films that they grew popularity as fashion. In 1910, Hollywood dressed its favorite icon in Levi Jeans–The American Cowboy. When William S. Hart, a famous actor in western’s, started wearing Levi’s America was able to see jeans in a new light. What had been originally reserved for those working jobs in the mines, factories, and farms was now being seen as an American staple. True Americans were being depicted as wearing jeans, and that meant everyone needed a pair.

American Westerns dominated the American heart, telling the classic tale of the hard working American and the classic look that came with it. This image of blue jeans did not deter until the 1950’s when the movie Rebel Without a Cause hit the silver screen. In this movie, James Dean is seen wearing bright blue denim jeans, a white shirt, and a red jacket. This look sparked the interest of those wishing to look like the “heartthrob.” This look was a staple of the era. After this movie, teens began calling the overall denims with a new name, officially starting the reign of denim jeans. 

    After James Dean’s white shirt and blue jeans, another star took to the look. The only person who could top Dean’s look was the equally as famous Marilyn Monroe. In 1962 America’s favorite leading woman showcased a pair of high wasted blue denim jeans in the movie Misfits.

Though Monroe’s look was similar to Deans with the pairing of blue jeans and a white shirt, Monroe was opening up the genre of jeans of women. Jeans and denim had been reserved for men, typically those who needed the tough material, but when Monroe was pictured wearing denim it was a signal to women that denim wasn’t just for the working man anymore. As the company, Levi Strauss & Co. said “In the years following the movie, blue jeans became a signature garment for teens, rebels and others. The film’s title also became a prologue to another group of 1960s “misfits” who would feature prominently in San Francisco’s drug and hippie scene also dressed in Levi’s® jeans. By the end of the decade, jeans were the preferred garment of counter-culturists, musicians, and even rock fans at mass gatherings like Woodstock in 1969.”  Sadly as this was Monroe’s last film, she was unable to continue to promote the wear of Levi Jeans, but that didn’t mean the death of jeans. In 1967 another famous lady took to the silver screen wearing blue jeans.

In 1967, the movie Two for the Road made its way to American hearts and theaters. Starring as the lead female role was Audrey Hepburn. Hepburn, a feisty, stylish, young actress who plays Joanne Wallace. Wallace is seen wearing jeans, but a different cut, one that really hadn’t been seen before. Hepburn wore ankle cut jeans. The jeans stopped right at her ankles instead of continuing the entire length of her leg. The new cut created a new style of jeans, one that is still popular today.

Once ankle cut jeans became popular, different lengths of jeans became popular. Jean cuts varied from ankle to boot cut to flare jeans. Flare jeans or bell bottoms became popular with the rise of the 1970’s. Bell bottoms were unique to the hippie or counter culture movement.

By the end of the 1970’s denim jeans took a complete 180 from the long bell bottoms. In 1979, the movie Dukes of Hazzard aired and the world was shocked by the female character Daisy Duke. Daisy is shown wearing very short cut-off jeans. These jeans were considered so short that they were nicknamed “shorts.” These revealing shorts took the era of long jeans revamped it to introduce the idea of homemade shorts. Shorts took the old, worn out pair of jeans and turned them into a new stylish look.

After the movie Dukes of Hazzard, denim jeans were versatile. Jeans were worn different ways, and the options were endless. High wasted, boot cut, or bell bottoms, shorts, ankle cut, and classic overalls were all styles that were available to the everyday person. When the late 1980’s rolled around a new style of denim arrived. When the rock and roll subgenre grunge became popular so did a new trend of jeans. One of the most popular bands at this time was Nirvana. Nirvana was a grunge band formed in the late 1980’s and gained popularity in the 1990’s. The lead singer in the band was Kurt Cobain. Cobain was known for singing in ripped and patched jeans. This old tattered look gained an interest from Cobain followers.9) This led to the emergence of ripped jeans with patches and holes. Cobain became the face of grunge and a new style of jeans. Ripped Jeans started by Kurt Cobain are still worn today. The history of jeans is still impacting modern society. One can walk down the street and see one wearing any of the listed styles.”

“Denim has affected Americans in many ways. Over the last few decades there have been many styles that have come from the original jean pant. Many of these different styles that were very popular during different years have come back into fashion more recently. One example of a jean style coming back into fashion is the flare jean. Flare Jeans originated in the 1970s and were called bootcut jeans at the time. However they have been adapted by becoming slimmer and being renamed to flare jeans now. Cut off jeans that started to become popular in the late 1970s are still very popular and widely worn by many americans today. Light wash and distressed jeans were huge in fashion wear for americans in the 1990s and still are today. There really isn’t a standard denim color that people wear for daily jeans because there are so many variations in styles, cuts, colors, brands that would never have happened without Levi’s original jeans. After a few years Levi Strauss’s company started to get competition and wanted to show their brand off easily and so they added a patch with their logo to make them stand out from others. Later on the back jean pockets also got a stitched on logo. This branding made Levi Strauss’s jeans distinctly different than other companies because you could see the brand so easily. This kind of name branding was very important and had not been big before this. Today you can tell jeans apart just by the logo or stitching on back pockets. You can easily tell if someone is wearing American Eagle jeans, Hollister or Gap and so on. By starting this kind of branding it has impacted all of us in how we see jeans and brands. Something else that came from denim pants was the adaptation of denim for different objects, for example you can go to some stores and find purses, headbands, shoes, jackets, chokers, and more made out of denim. Which shows how far we have come from the original purpose of denim which was to be a durable pant for working men.”

“For more information please see our website listed below. Thanks for watching!”