We love it. We wear it as pants. We (sometimes) wear it as a jacket. And we (used to) wear it as shorts.

It’s called “denim,” and it’s become such an accepted part of our lives that we don’t even think twice about it anymore.

But when was denim invented? And what in the heck did people wear before there was denim?

Here’s a quick look at the history of denim, when it was created and by whom.


The 19th-Century Roots of Denim Jeans

Back in the late mid- to late-1800s, the United States wasn’t full explored and settled. In fact, much of what we know today as the USA from the Appalachian Mountains westward was pretty wild country.

And this country was filled with miners, railroad tracklayers, surveyors, teamsters and other various laborers. While they need tough pants, the trousers available to them weren’t as durable as they would have liked.

It was 1872 when a tailor from Nevada named Jacob W. Davis first manufactured a pair of pants using rivet-reinforced denim. The pants were so popular that interested parties soon overwhelmed David with demand. He couldn’t keep up.


Here’s a Name You Know: Levi Strauss

Davis had been getting his denim fabric from a San Francisco company called Levi Strauss & Co. Davis wrote the company a letter proposing that he patent his new denim trousers and give Levi Strauss & Co. the rights to manufacture them — in exchange for equity in the company.

Levi Strauss & Co. was blown away by Davis’ proposal, and they immediately hired him on to oversee production of the denim trousers. On May 20, 1873, Davis and Levi Strauss & Co. received patent #139,121 for the invention.


A History in Europe

Denim was used to make pants well before Mr. Davis invented his denim jeans. In fact, the French used a fabric called “serge” to make a type of jeans in the town of Nimes. That’s where the denim name comes from, the French term “serge de Nimes.”

Italian sailors loved the material so much that they would buy loads in France to take home with them. Sailors from Genoa bought so much of the material, in fact, that the French began to refer to the material as Genoans, or “jeans.”


Denim Statistics

What started in France and continued with Mr. Davis invention in 1872 has continued into a booming industry today. Would you believe that the global denim industry is worth more than $56 billion each year?

China, the United States, India, Brazil and Turkey are among the material’s biggest exporters. There are 513 denim mills worldwide, and more than 2.7 billion meters of denim are produced each year.

And the top 5 denim companies? Levi Strauss & Co. remains No. 1, followed by Diesel, G-Star, Pepe and True Religion.

Yes, we love our jeans.

Did we miss an important fact about denim? Let us know in the comments section below, or send us a message through our contact form.