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A Riveting Innovation in Fashion

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Happy 138th, Blue Jeans!

NEW YORK, May 19, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Blue jeans, the ubiquitous cotton denim trouser, is 138-years-young today. On May 20, 1873, Levi Strauss and Nevada tailor Jacob Davis were granted U.S. Patent Number 139,121 for their use of rivets to add strength to denim workpants. Over a century later, blue jeans continue to rivet consumers and designers around the world. Today, U.S. consumers own an average of 7 pairs of denim jeans, according the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor™ survey, and the appeal of denim jeans shows no signs of going out of vogue.

What began as workwear during the California gold Rush has evolved into a workhorse for the apparel industry; with current price points ranging from around $10.00, to upwards of $10,000.00 for a pair of custom-designed denim jeans. The 2011 global denim industry is an estimated $54 billion at retail, with demand growing steadily at 5% to 6%, according to a report by the ATA Journal for Asia on Textiles and Apparel.

Responses to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor survey show that consumers are true-blue in their dedication to denim.  "According to responses to our most recent survey, over three-quarters of consumers love or enjoy wearing denim," says Melissa Bastos, Manager, Market Research at Cotton Incorporated.  "For women 13-to-34, that number jumps to 81%," she adds.

Other interesting denim findings from the Lifestyle Monitor survey:

Why purchase new jeans?

I "need" them

I "liked the jeans"







Preferred Styles for Men

Relaxed Fit

Regular Fit

Loose Fit

Boot Cut





Preferred Styles for Women

Boot Cut

Relaxed Fit

Loose Fit






Channels Shopped for Jeans

Chain Stores

Mass Merchants

Specialty Stores

Off-Price Stores





Top Four Jeans Brands









Highlights from denim's fashion evolution follow.

Additional statistics on denim and a range of other consumer and industry categories can be found at



Work, war and film were influential in shaping the shape of women's trouser-wearing. In the 1939 film, The Women, Manhattan socialites visit a dude ranch, in full, high-waisted, stiff-denimed dungarees. Vogue and Mademoiselle both deemed denim appropriate for dude ranching and Levi's had already jumped onto the trend with their short-lived Lady Levi's line in 1935. But jeans were less a fashion statement and more a costume of Western color.


During World War II, Rosie the Riveter was an icon representing women who took up the labor slack while men were fighting overseas.  In 1943, a then-unknown model named Betty Bacall modeled Rosie's signature denim coveralls on the cover of Harper's Bazaar.

Perhaps influenced by Rosie, Wellesley College students felt the freedom to wear blue jeans on campus in 1944. But, then a "scandalous" photo of denim clad Wellesley Girls appeared in an issue of Life magazine. Dubbed "the sloppy look," it created a national stir and set ladies jeans-wearing back a good decade.


In 1954, Grace Kelly reclined on a sofa in Hitchcock's "Rear Window," wearing a pair of jeans and reading an attire-appropriate book about traveling in the Himalayas. As Jimmy Stewart dozes off, Kelly discards the book and switches to the latest issue of Bazaar, making a silent but powerful connection between fashion and denim.

Thanks to "The Wild One" (1953) and "Rebel Without A Cause" (1955), a pervasive association with blue jeans and juvenile delinquency had entered the public consciousness. Thanks James Dean and Marlon Brando! So widespread was the detrimental denim mindset, that the Denim Council was formed in 1956 to combat declining sales.  


Denim pants are dubbed "jeans" by the Baby Boomer generation. The name has its origins in the French phrase bleu de Genes (literally, "blue of Genoa"), and harks back to the first known uses of denim pants – as a uniform for Genoese sailors.

In 1961, the Denim Council's efforts paid off with a major public relations coup: the newly-formed Peace Corps allowed its first 200 volunteers to wear jeans. This ushered in a new era across the board. It was a brave new world of positive revolution, rock-and-roll and, to bring the topic full circle, women's rights.


When Vogue featured blue jeans on their cover in the early 1970s, denim received its official sartorial sanction.


In 1988, as Anna Wintour picked up the reins as Editor of Vogue, her very first cover featured a young model wearing a $10,000 Christian Lacroix shirt matched with a pair of Guess (?) blue jeans. The message conveyed was that jeans can hold their own in the world of high fashion.

SOURCE Cotton Incorporated


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