Examining Denim's "Jeaneology" on its 139th Birthday

May 16, 2012, 11:20 ET from Cotton Incorporated

The Past, Present and Future of an American Favorite

NEW YORK, May 16, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- When is a jean not a jean?  As we recognize the 139th anniversary of Levi Strauss receiving U.S. Patent Number 139,121 on May 20, 1873 for the use of rivets to add strength to denim workpants, that ubiquitous icon of denim jeans, it is interesting to examine the state of the great American garment.

The term "denim" comes from a twilled cotton cloth that originated in France called "serge de Nimes," which was eventually contracted, and the pants were nicknamed "blue jeans." Since its inception, jeans have been made of cotton denim, and consumers have come to recognize that; a full 70% of consumers agree that denim is made of cotton, according to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor™ Survey.

Denim's ability to take on the personality of its wearer has made it iconic in American fashion, and consumers seem to agree; the average American owns 7 pairs of jeans, according to Monitor data.

After the run up in the price of cotton last year, many denim manufacturers began substituting synthetic fibers to reduce the overall costs, a presumably short-term move that has not gone unnoticed by consumers.  Fifty eight percent of consumers are bothered that brands and retailers might be substituting synthetic fibers for cotton in denim, and of those who have purchased clothing, more than four out of 10 (44%) believe the quality of clothing has decreased compared to last year.

Denim manufacturers unwilling to stick with cotton, it seems, may be committing 'jean-o-cide.'

"It's the new consumer value proposition," says Kim Kitchings, Vice President, Corporate Strategy & Program Metrics. "With consumers still spending cautiously, they are eyeing each purchase closely. Not only are they aware of fiber substitution, but they don't like it, and they're also willing to pay more for cotton."

Monitor data support this; 57% of consumers say they would prefer to pay a slightly higher price to keep cotton from being substituted with synthetic fibers in their denim jeans.

Cotton Incorporated, funded by U.S. growers of upland cotton and importers of cotton and cotton textile products, is the research and marketing company representing upland cotton. The Program is designed and operated to improve the demand for and profitability of cotton.

SOURCE Cotton Incorporated