History and Evolution Raw and Selvedge Denim Jeans

History and Evolution Raw and Selvedge Denim Jeans

April 15, 2018 1 Comment

History and Evolution of Denim Jeans

Key takeaways:

  1. Raw denim jeans were worn by miners and were mostly innovated by Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss
  2. Veterans and pop culture made jeans more acceptable for everyday wear 
  3. The manufacturing process changed and raw denim started to die as it became more popular

The history of denim jeans is a rich one; from being worn miners as they carved to hell with pick axes, to girls wearing skinny jeans who cry when they see puppies.

Denim jeans were actually invented way back in Europe in the 19th century (1800s for the people who can't subtract 1 and add 00's).

In the city of Nimes, France. At the time the fabric was called 'serge' or 'serge de Nimes'. This was eventually transformed into denim. 

As the story goes, sailors from Genoa, Italy, would travel to Nimes to buy denim pants in bulk.

With the sailors from Genoa buying so many pairs people came up with a nick name of 'jeans' based off of where they were coming from'Genoa'.  

We have the name "denim jeans". 

They were eventually brought to the United States and the evolution of what we have today began. 

(2:22 video on the history of American jeans)

This history of denim jeans in heavily influenced by Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss.


Jacob Davis was born in 1831 in Riga, Latvia. He immigrated to the United State in 1854. He was trained as a tailor in Europe. 

Davis moved around the United States and Canada. Selling or doing various work. 

In 1869 he settled Reno, Nevada. There he opened a tailor shop where he made various item using denim. He ordered this denim from Levi Strauss & Co. 

(Nice selfie of Jacob W. Davis)

Jacob W. Davis

One day, a women came into his shop and ordered a very large pair of pants for her husband. She requested they be as strong as possible. 

Davis used metal rivets on other products. That's when he decided to use them on a pair of pants. 

The rivets on our jeans were born. 

He also used orange double thread on the seams. Giving his jeans a distinct look and added durability. 

The orders for these his new product start rolling in.

Davis needed help. 

Davis teamed up with Levi Strauss to get a patent and to help with manufacturing and distribution. The denim brand Levi's was started. 

(Levi Strauss looking very healthy) 

Levi Strauss

The popularity of denim jeans grew. 

Back when men were men, which I guess was in the mid 1800’s, denim jeans were exclusively used as work wear. 

(loggers wearing nice raw denim jeans)

Old time loggers

Pairs of jeans were made on shuttle looms, which gave them the selvedge seam, and they came to their customers totally unwashed (raw).

Jeans were popular with miners and other people who chopped things all day long.

 ("hey guys lets straddle this giant log in our raw denim")Loggers sitting on log

As with most things if something is durable and comfortable more people are going to start to use it. 

This brought the popularity of denim jeans to hollywood. 

Cowboys started to wearing denim jeans in western movies. In the early 1900’s, if actors pretending to be badass gun slinging cowboys wore jeans and everybody else started wearing them, too.

"Jeans are my huckleberry" - Fashionable Cowboy.

(Fashionable cowboy)



Men started coming home from WWI and WWII, who got back to work and started wearing jeans regularly.

That's when denim jeans started their evolution into something that people wear everyday, which caused their appearance and how they were manufactured to change. 

Jeans became popular for both men and women in the 1970's. By the 1980’s, jeans started to be pre-washed and distressed. 

(Johnny Depp about to steal your girl)

Jon Depp in denim

This is where raw denim started to die. 

This process gave them a worn look before getting to the customer. Pre-washing and distressing made the jeans softer, broke them in and gave them a different look.

The popularity of different fits has also changed. Over the decades jeans get tighter and looser. 

With the popularity of skinny jeans today denim can be found that is partially made of more stretchy materials. 

(Dude in skinny jeans)

Skinny jeans

You just can't wear your jeans that tight with raw thick denim. 

What's the bottom line?

Denim has come a long way. They are now a staple of the worlds wardrobe. 

The future of denim will be a mix of both new denim and old denim, and both will need to fit properly to look good.

1 Response

Paul Eli
Paul Eli

June 30, 2016

“men stopped being men”


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