How were jeans invented

Cotton side

From worker trousers to the fashion standard

by Anna-Lena Meier

The triumph of jeans began as early as the 19th century. There is probably hardly anyone who does not have at least one pair of jeans in their closet. The robust and diverse garment has been part of the fashion world for over a century since its invention. Jeans have been a standard product for many years and are equally popular with all age groups, whether men or women. Many like the different styles and fashionable variations, others are convinced of the durability and comfortable wearing.

Jeans and clothing market

The clothing market is growing by a few percentage points every year, and jeans imports in particular are increasing in Europe every year. In 2013, Germany imported 114 million pairs of jeans, compared to 494 million in the entire European Union. The European average price for imports is 7.48 euros. This has to do with the low price of cotton on the one hand and the exploitative production conditions in the cultivation and export countries such as Bangladesh, China and Pakistan on the other. (Source: Textile Industry).

Origin of Jeans

Jacob Davis developed designs in the USA in the 1870s to reinforce pockets and particularly stressed areas of trousers. Together with Levi Strauss, they both patent the process for rivet-reinforced trousers, which were particularly tear-resistant and were very suitable for workers in the gold mines. The Levi's was born. The name Jeans is derived from the Italian city of Genoa - Gênes in French - from which cotton trousers were imported to the USA. The specially woven cotton fabric dyed with indigo blue came from Nîmes in France and gave the "blue jeans" their characteristic appearance to this day. The "Serge de Nîmes" fabric became "Denim". The development of jeans brought many new fashionable accessories such as belt loops, back pockets and zippers. The comfortable and durable trousers made of denim soon also dressed cowboys, railroad workers, farmers and lumberjacks.

Fits and styles

Nowadays, jeans are not just simple trousers. It is regarded as a cult object, a status symbol and as a fashion element it is impossible to imagine any wardrobe without it. The first women's trousers came on the American market in the 1930s, where jeans had now also established themselves as casual trousers for men. The first fit was a very straight cut with five pockets that should be comfortable and stable at the same time. There weren't any extras like crotch rivets, buttons for suspenders or zippers.

Until the 1950s, the cuts didn't change until the fashion industry realized that there was a large market for different styles and shapes. There are generally three basic styles of jeans:

  • slim
  • regular
  • comfort

  • Based on these sizes, fashion designers develop further trends. If you want to find out the exact size for yourself, you have to pay attention to the different information from the manufacturer. Men measure the waist size horizontally at the waist and the stride length from the inside of the leg to the end of the foot. The shape is often indicated on the sewing of the jeans and in special cases buyers should pay attention to the foot width so that the pants do not fit too tight. Since the jeans come from the USA, many sizes are given in inches, which can be difficult when choosing your own fit. All common sizes and body shapes can be found and converted on size tables. In the course of history, the range of shapes, colors and sizes has changed significantly and has become more versatile.


    The first models of casual trousers shrank by around ten percent when they were washed for the first time. The principle of "shrink-to-fit", that is, "shrink to fit", prompted many women and men to lie fully clothed in the bathtub in order to adapt their trousers to their own body shape. In terms of fashion, tight jeans were also considered bold and modern, especially when jeans conquered Europe in the 1950s. Most of the jeans on the market today are pre-washed and no longer shrink. However, some manufacturers use the vintage effect and deliberately offer models that are running in.


    In the 50s, unisex shapes were most common. The straight cuts and the bootcuts were mainly used from the Second World War in order to be able to pull the jeans over the boots. That explains a slight exhibition at the foot width of the pants.

    Bell bottoms

    The first bell-bottoms in the 1970s were made from denim fabric. On average, they were very narrow at the hips, thighs and knees and were tight and widened into large funnels from the knees to the feet. Especially during the time of the hippie movement, the waistbands were set high on the waist to emphasize them.

    The bell-bottoms originally came from the handicraft industry in order to protect the feet from dirt and water with the exhibited legs. But because fashion has become a formative attitude towards life, designers have adopted a wide variety of templates to capture the lifestyle of young people.
    Nowadays, most bell-bottoms are cut at the waist and do not have a flare that is too big.

    Skinny jeans and slimmy jeans

    While jeans should be comfortable and allow freedom of movement in the working world, it could hardly be tighter for many men and women. Women in particular enjoyed the trousers with their tight cuts, which lay close to the thighs and lower legs and had a very narrow foot. Rock musicians like the Ramones or other greats of the music scene took on the skinny jeans to emphasize their rebel status. The tight cut was not very advantageous for most men and women in the first pair of trousers. Only in the last few years has the Slimmy jeans developed that leaves the buttocks and thighs more free space so that people with curves can also adopt the fashionable trend.

    Sustainability and quality

    Particularly important in the manufacture of jeans is their long durability thanks to high-quality processing. Even if nowadays many styles such as being washed out by stones or artificial tearing and tearing changed the look of jeans, good quality remains a main characteristic of the trousers. During the manufacture of the jeans, the trousers are subjected to abrasion and tear tests and must have well-processed seams.
    Due to the many different styles and fits, everyone can find their favorite jeans these days and wear them for a long time if they are of good quality. Both the buyer and the environment benefit from jeans that fit well and contain no harmful substances.