While selling goods during the late-1800s gold rush in California, Levi Strauss happened upon a gold rush of his own. After gaining a reputation as a savvy businessman, tailor Jacob Davis, a frequent client, proposed a joint venture. He often bought Strauss’s canvas fabric to repair miners’ torn pants, and had hatched a clever plan to reinforce the rips with copper rivets. Strauss agreed to help Davis patent the work clothing, and in 1873 the pair began manufacturing the much-loved pants. A switch to lightweight denim, a cotton fabric dyed with indigo and originally produced in France, helped cement “those pants of Levi’s” as a household name.
The reputation of Levi’s jeans lived on long after Strauss’s death as the image of the Wild, Wild West took its place in American lore. Cowboys wearing Levi’s gave the brand a rugged spirit of individualism. Casual and accessible, denim jeans were embraced by American youth as a symbol of rebellion. Within decades, fashion designers couldn’t ignore the immense influence of jeans, frequently slotting the blue bottoms into fashion lineups the world over. Strauss was influential in popularizing the denim craze that only continues to rush forward.
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