Arcuates: What they are and why jeans have them

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This Encyclopedia entry is a must-know term. Learn more in our Denim vocabulary.

Arcuates are patterns of stitching on the back pockets of jeans. They’re also known as back pocket signatures.

The most iconic arcuates are those found on Levi’s jeans. They are made of two rows of stitches that’re shaped like bat wings or seagulls.

They’re primarily there for decorative purposes, but arcuates can also help secure a pocket lining.

Levi’s is credited as the first brand to use of the design on their very first blue jeans in 1873. Yet it has been speculated that they weren’t the inventors of the design. Due to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which destroyed the company’s headquarters and factories, Levi’s don’t know the origin of the design.

Before Levi’s trademarked their arcuate in 1943, and before the introduction of Wrangler’s “Western Wear” W design and Lee’s Lazy-S, all brands used the same design.

Even during wartime, when superfluous or redundant elements to any garment were removed in order to conserve crucial materials such as thread and metal exclusively for the war effort, brands adapted rather than dropping ‘non-essential’ elements to their garments.

Rather than lose their newly trademarked arcuate, brands like Levi’s adapted to their circumstances and began painting arcuates onto their pockets.

In the US, no other denim brand is allowed to sell jeans with patterns that even remotely resemble the Levi’s arcuates. Japanese reproduction brands have imitated the arcs, which has resulted in several lawsuits.

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