Jeans

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

Jeans are trousers made from denim. And because the denim’s usually blue, jeans are often called ‘blue jeans.’

Common features include five pockets, a fly at the front, five belt loops, and a yoke at the back.

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The name ‘jeans’

The name ‘jeans’ is believed to have derived from the anglicised word for Genes, the demonym for people from Genoa in Italy.

Genoa was a hub for trade in the 17th and 18th centuries. Sailing merchants from Genoa traded their goods throughout Europe, particularly to England and France.

One article that made Genoa particularly famous was a sturdy, deep blue cotton cloth, ideally suited to making tough work clothes for fishermen, seamen, dockworkers and miners.

The cloth was most likely dyed with woad, an alternative to natural indigo that was popular in Europe back then.

Since French was widely spoken throughout Europe at that time, the cloth was named ‘bleu de Gênes’ (the blue of Genoa), which would later devolve into the English derivative ‘jeans.’

The jeans we know and wear today were popularised by Levi’s. Their uniquely riveted jeans were invented by the tailor Jacob Davis in 1871, who soon partnered with Levi Strauss. Protecting the invention with patent (that expired in 1890), they introduced their riveted jeans in 1873.

Interestingly, back then, their jeans were known as ‘waist overalls,’ a term Levi’s stuck with all up until the 1960s.

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