Jeans were invented in Genoa, Italy when that city was an independent Republic, and a naval power. The first jeans were made for the Genoese Navy because it required an all-purpose pant for its sailors that could be worn wet or dry, and whose legs could easily be rolled-up to wear swabbing the deck and for swimming. These jeans would be laundered by dragging them in large mesh nets behind the ship, and the sea water would bleach them white. The first denim came from (french:de) Nīmes, France ... hence the name denim. The French word for these pants was very similar to their word for Genoa; this is where we get the term 'jeans' today.
Jeans were developed in America in 1853, when Levi Strauss came to San Francisco to open a west coast branch of his brothers' New York dry goods business. One of Levi's customers was Jacob Davis, a tailor who frequently purchased bolts of cloth from the Levi Strauss & Co wholesale house. After one of Jacob's costumers kept purchasing cloth to reinforce torn pants, he had an idea to use copper rivets to reinforce the points of strain, such as on the pocket corners and at the base of the button fly. Jacobs did not have the required money to purchase a patent, so he wrote to Levi suggesting that they both go into business together. After Levi accepted Jacobs offer, on May 20, 1874, the two men received patent #139,121 from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and the blue jean was born. Jeans have been often compared to four-wheel drive vehicles and hiking boots, because they can go anywhere. Levis are known for their rugged construction, personal "shrink-to-fit", and versatility. Originally worn by miners, farmers, and cowboys, Levis are now worn in all walks of life.
Levis and Water
The concept of wearing jeans in water dates from their very beginning and continues today. Levis were originally produced in only three sizes, and the wearer would jump into a body of water - either a creek, a pond, or a horse trough, to shrink them to fit. Today, Levis are available in a variety of styles, from tight to loose fit, and are sold either pre-washed or shrink-to-fit. And may never even be worn in water, if the wearer chooses not to. However, the best method of 'breaking-in' Levis remains the same ... buy them with a snug fit, wear them new, jump into a hot tub or spa -- then swim, and allow them to dry-on, for a personal fit.
Levis are practical for outdoor activities, most athletics, and aquatics. The famous 'top and levis' -- a neoprene jacket and shrink-to-fit Levis remains one of the best skindiving and scuba suits or diveskins, offering protection from overexposure to the sun, stings, and abrasion. Levis 501, 505 and 512 Red Tab are the best for swimming and diving, and provide the same thermal protection as 1mm neoprene. When worn with a 2-3mm top, you can swim and dive comfortably in water 5 - 10 degress f. cooler than you normally would. In addition, Levis (and Wranglers, etc.) are approximatley 1.5 pounds negatively bouyant, enabling a diver to descend underwater more easily than with an all-neoprene diveskin (which is positively bouyant, and requires lead weights to achieve the same result). This is especially important in open water and in the ocean - where salt water makes the diver more bouyant than in fresh water. The very same jeans that might feel 'heavy' to a beginner swimmer when they go into a pool, are a second skin to the experienced intrepid swimmer/diver in open water. Some swimmers and divers reserve specific pairs of jeans and diveskin jeans for the water, just as they do with their neoprene wetsuits and lycra skins. The preferred approach is to be able to go from dryland to water and back to dryland wearing the same jeans or skins always when on, in, or underwater.
Jeans Used For SCUBA Diving
Levis 'skins' provide swimmers and divers with additional convenience because in warm weather and climates where a complete diveskin is needed underwater, but not at the warmer surface (which might cause over-heating), the neoprene jacket can be removed and you can swim with just your jeans or with a lycra top. Most swimmers and diver combine their 'skins' with dive fins and a mask/snorkle for a very practical and functional set of swim/dive gear. The surge in the denim fabric acts as shark dendrils in that it funnels the water over the swimmer/diver's body allowing them to become hydrodynamic and swim faster underwater.
Rescue Divers, Aquatic First Responders, and Rescue Swimmers find jeans practical and a life-saving measure because of their versatility and because they protect the rescuer from sharp metal and fiberglass when doing saves resulting from boat accidents and submerged vehicles. Jeans or skins enable the rescuer to be prepared to swim and dive to respond to an in-water emergency without the added inconvenience and waste of precious time required to 'suit-up'. It must be remembered that if the rescuer is put at risk or injured while responding to a water emergency, then the victim might encounter more serious injury or even face death. Additionally, the increased protection that Jeans and Skins provide in water allow the rescuer to face risks more boldly during storms and place themselves between the victim and hazards in the water such as a rocky shoreline, piers and jettys, to prevent the victim from sustaining more injury during egress from the water.
During World War II, families in the U.S. would send Levis to their sons in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marines stationed in the Pacific -- beause their fit was better for swimming than the baggy dungarees issued by the military. In the U.S., Levis first became widely popular for swimming in the 1960's with the introduction of "White Levis" for surfers on the West Coast. White Levis fit lean and tapered, and made of unbleached, unshrunk denim, which shrank and bleached-out to a perfect white in chlorinated pools and in the ocean.
Jeans in Advertising
It is only expected that any product which emphasizes fun, adventure, and athletics in a water environment would be appealing. Consequently, Levi's have been advertised in a variety of underwater commercials where the athletic guy always attracted the pretty girl, including The Mermaid, The Levis Swimmer, The French Dictionary, and numerous scuba diving and beach commercials in the 1990's and early 2000's. Advertised as 'your second skin', Levis are considered by athletic, intrepid swimmers and divers to be an extension of their aquatic body, and are worn for swimming, diving, whitewater, snorkling and scuba. Levis Strauss has shrink tanks in some of it stores, allowing the customer to purchase a pair of jeans, submerge in a tank of water while their new jeans shrink, and then stand in front of a 'human dryer' to dry their jeans, so that their new Levis will shrink to a personal fit on their body.
Levis' competitors have also utilized water and swimming settings for their commercials. Nautica Jeans advertises their jeans in a water commercial with wakeboarding champion Brian Grubb demonstrating his incredible wakeboarding skills while wearing NAUTICA Dimensional Denim Jeans.
Diesel Jeans has print ads with male and female models underwater wearing Diesel Jeans.
Sears featured their River Canyon Blues in water commericals, with the model diving off a pier, and surf swimming in form-fitting Sears RCB Jeans.
Wrangler Jeans are traditionally worn as western wear, and are popular among professional cowboys and people who prefer true western style jeans that are good with boots and a cowboy hat. The most popular denim weight for Wranglers is 15oz., which makes them actually heavier (thicker) than other brands, including Levis, which top out at 14 3/4 oz denim. Wranglers are regular or slim fit (936), with straight leg or boot cut. Very rugged and dependable, Wranglers are designed for outdoor activities, days in the saddle, and shrink to a good personal fit. People in the West and in the Outdoors everywhere appreciate the I-can-go-everywhere nature of rugged, dependable Wranglers. Many a cowboy has cooled off in a stock tank or creek, escaping the summer heat, wearing their Wranglers. Ironically the television commercial depicting a college-age male emerging from a western river wearing Levis, is as much a statement about Wranglers as Levis -- where the quick dip in a clean river in a rugged environment might be to cool off, or might include a bar of soap to bathe and wash your jeans at the same time. Like Levis, Wranglers will form-fit for swimming, enabling cowboys to ford western rivers or rescue a calf from a river without a second thought about getting wet. The method for fording a river or lake while riding a horse entails either remaining in the saddle while your horse swims across the water, or hanging on to the saddle horn and swimming along side, and re-mounting when you reach the opposite shore. Because of the athletic nature of their sport, professional competition rodeo cowboys will sometimes shrink their Wranglers in water to achieve a personal fit for athletic support during rodeo bull and bronco riding competition. WRANGLER is an Official Sponsor of the PCRA.
Blue jeans in popular culture
Initially blue jeans were simply sturdy pants worn by workers. In the United States during the 1950s wearing of blue jeans by teenagers and young adults came to be symbolic of mild protest against conformity. This was considered by some adults as disruptive, for example, some movie theaters refused to admit patrons who wore blue jeans. The alternative to jeans was a type of light khaki pants worn by conformist teens who were branded with the name "soshes" (apparently from "social"). During the 1960s the wearing of blue jeans became more acceptable and by the 1970s had become a general fashion in the United States at least for informal wear.
Outside of the United States particularly in Russian popular culture blue jeans were and are fashionable, symbolizing American culture and the good life. Being imported American products, especially in the case of the Soviet Union which restricted hard currency imports, they were somewhat expensive