If you glance by way of street type images from across the globe, 1 factor sticks out: Levi’s are Everywhere. Although jeans have grow to be the de facto uniform for trend editors, versions and every person else on the street, they began out as humble pieces of men’s workwear, prized a lot more for their durability in excess of any sort of “great” issue. Between the time when Levi’s jeans had been 1st launched in 1873 and these days, the denim business has undergone massive alterations that reflect cultural shifts, such as the ongoing fight for gender equality. Levi’s recognized the want for girls to have sensible and sturdy trousers prolonged before most brand names chose to acknowledge that women have two legs. When so much of women’s trend is deemed as frivolous, impractical and ever-modifying, it is interesting to contemplate that 1 of the most typical pieces of women’s clothing was truly made to be sturdy, sensible and, most importantly, exclusively for men. Here, we consider a seem back at when and how Levi’s jeans grew to become part of women’s wardrobes and why they carry on to be a staple of contemporary style.
Ahead of his identify grew to become synonymous with jeans, Levi Strauss was the owner of a wholesale dry items organization in San Francisco that offered supplies to miners for the duration of the Gold Rush. After patenting the procedure of riveting pants in 1873, Levi Strauss grew to become the originator of what is perhaps the most iconic garment in Western history. In spite of widespread belief, Levi Strauss & Co. did not invent what we know as “jeans”: there were plenty of comparable denim pants created prior to. Nevertheless, by including rivets to areas that usually undertook the most tension, this kind of as the pockets, Levi’s discovered a way to make pants that would stand the check of time. These “waist overalls,” as they were officially called till the 1950s, had one back pocket, a observe pocket, a buckled cinch to change the waist, suspender buttons and a rivet in the crotch to steer clear of unpleasant ripping.
When Levi Strauss 1st launched his signature trousers, he definitely did not have ladies in thoughts. During the 1870s and 1880s, women’s trend was centered on the cumbersome bustle silhouette. Still, that didn’t cease lots of rebellious females from adopting men’s Levi’s to ride horses, function on farms, or engage in other bodily pursuits long before style magazines or mainstream Western society deemed them as suitable.
For the duration of Planet War I, a lot of ladies engaged in physical labor for first time to fulfill the duties of males who had been shipped off to combat. From factories to farms, girls in these labor-intensive jobs found that men’s trousers, such as Levi’s jeans, were an essential component of their wartime wardrobe. In 1918, as the war was coming to an end, Levi’s launched a line of women’s garments named “Freedom-Alls”, which were one-piece garments that consisted of cotton tunics linked to balloon pants. According to Levis Strauss & Co. historian Tracey Paneck, “The identify celebrated the end of World War I and the freedom of movement the garment supplied for females who, in the words of the advertisement, could use them for ‘work or recreation.'”
By 1922, the brand was promoting khaki hiking togs and jackets for females, despite the fact that their classic jeans were nevertheless only produced for guys. Loosely lower trousers for ladies were starting to grow to be popularized by designers like Coco Chanel, but they were primarily worn by stylish youthful ladies for leisure pursuits (like beachside lounging) or as early eveningwear, mainly in the form of luxurious silk pyjama fits.  Aside from these stylish options, standard women’s trousers have been nevertheless deemed socially unacceptable for most circumstances, and girls in search of extended-lasting and form-fitting denim pants had to settle for borrowing from the men’s part till the 1930s.
Even though Levi’s jeans continued to be ideal acknowledged as men’s workwear by means of the 1920s, Levi’s became synonymous with the elegant picture of the American cowboy in the 1930s. At that time, the world became fascinated by Western videos and the rugged seems donned by stars like John Wayne and Gary Cooper. Levi’s tapped into this cowboy craze with marketing that highlighted the brand’s connection to existence out West. At the same time, thousands of Americans from eastern states had been boarding trains to holiday in the Dude Ranches of California, Arizona, Nevada and other western states. These ranches have been actually holiday locations that supplied guests with the chance to get a taste of Western lifestyle by means of living on a ranch and undertaking hard labor (fun!). In 1934, one Vogue report told readers to, “go West […] and you will come back with a vastly altered level of view,” later on adding that Levi Strauss jeans and sturdy shirts have been the only clothes that you actually required. [two] Dude Ranch site visitors ventured back property proudly showing off their worn-in Levi’s jeans as badges of honor.
The reputation of Dude Ranches inspired Levi’s to introduce the very first line of jeans for girls in 1934. Recognized as Lady Levi’s, the jeans altered men’s cuts to greater fit the female form. Most importantly, as Paneck points out, Levi’s introduced these at a “time when women’s pants had been still largely unaccepted,” creating this a comparatively bold move in the clothes business. Nevertheless, aside from sporting Lady Levi’s on Dude Ranches, camping journeys or in the privacy of their personal backyards, most ladies stored to wearing skirts for day-to-day lifestyle. Based on catalogs and ads from this time period, it seems that Levi’s knew that jeans would quickly go past the classification of “workwear” to become trendy staples in each woman’s wardrobe.
For the duration of World War II, American ladies have been once more called upon to support in factories and other labor-intensive jobs although guys were fighting overseas. Denim-clad women became a symbol of the war work, exemplified by the image of Rosie the Riveter. Following the war, denim clothes became more accepted in American society, getting to be linked with leisure pursuits as an alternative of being mostly labeled as workwear. Levi’s jeans became symbolic of the relaxed and prosperous vision of the American way of daily life, which gave the firm new possibilities to broaden their distribution nationwide. At the very same time, societal changes stemming from the war also manufactured women’s pants a lot more accepted by mainstream Western culture for the very first time in background. By the 1950s, Levi’s jeans had grow to be a informal favored of suburban moms and construction employees alike.
During the 1950s, Levi’s jeans also grew to become a symbol of youth and rebellion, thanks in component to iconic denim seems to be of television and movie “bad boys” like James Dean in Rebel With no a Cause (1955), Marlon Brando in The Wild One (1953) and Elvis Presley, who was drawing a lot of focus to his jeans by means of his infamous hip-shaking. The media portrayal of rebellious youthful men and women wearing jeans shifted Levi’s away from wholesome territory and even led to some colleges to ban denim in classrooms. Of program, telling young males (and ladies) that they couldn’t dress in jeans only manufactured them more desirable, and quickly they became the most coveted item in an American teenager’s wardrobe. Levi’s got a complete new appear when Marilyn Monroe wore them in the film Clash by Night (1952) and later on in The Misfits (1961), which was potentially the initial time in common culture that jeans have been seen as possessing sex appeal for ladies. Portion of that appeal was based on the reality that women had been appropriating a garment that had originally been meant for male labor. Jeans on a female physique signified power, rebellion, and strength—what’s sexier than that?
The 1960s and 1970s are characterized by a amount of social movements, which includes the sexual revolution and fight for equal rights. Jeans became the uniform for university college students, hippies and any person else who recognized as portion of the “counter-culture.” By means of yet another societal shift, jeans grew to become symbolic of independence, freedom and a move away from the traditions of the previous. On best of that, denim was something that each males and girls could wear, creating it a sartorial symbol of gender equality. “Levi’s has constantly been a firm built on strong values and we pride ourselves on currently being pioneers in the battle for equal rights for all,” Karyn Hillman, Chief Item Officer of Levi’s, told Fashionista.
As gender stereotypes and sartorial codes grew to become challenged in the mainstream, jeans started to be worn practically everywhere, and Levi’s became one of America’s most desirable exports worldwide. The brand responded to this this surge in reputation by releasing jeans in a wide selection of designs and colours, marketing and advertising them primarily based on their aesthetic and stylish values more than sturdiness and comfort. Youthful individuals across the globe became obsessed with locating the perfect variety of jean type, whether or not it be faded, cropped, bleached or decorated with patches and embroidery. In 1973, Levi Strauss & Co. was presented with the Neiman Marcus Fashion Award for “the single most essential American contribution to worldwide fashion.”  By the 1980s, “designer denim” filled glossy magazines with photographs of attractive designs and movie stars donning jeans that were emblazoned with designer names like Calvin Klein. Regardless of any aesthetic changes, most jeans were nevertheless based off of the iconic Levi’s 501s.
So, what makes Levi’s so well-known following all of these many years? “With so a lot option out there, folks are gravitating to authenticity, so becoming the trusted authentic is a definite benefit in a aggressive market place place,” says Hillman. Since the 1970s, Levi’s has outlasted tons of trends, and has also adapted to fit many. (Let us not even speak about those ultra-low hip-huggers of the early aughts.) “There’s magic in this marriage of authenticity and modernity,” Hillman adds. “It comes down to the reality that denim and individuals are usually evolving.”
In recent years, the brand has manufactured attempts to far better fit a more varied group of women’s bodies. In 2010, Levi’s unveiled their Curve ID collection, which supplied 3 distinct fits for girls of diverse body kinds. A handful of years later on, the brand undertook an even a lot more ambitious task to redesign their whole denim assortment for females based mostly on two many years of substantial analysis by means of interviewing and observing girls of distinct ages, entire body varieties and ethnicities in cities across Asia, Europe and the U.S. Although the trend industry even now struggles to signify and cater to all sorts of women and entire body shapes, measures like these are absolutely going in the right direction.
Just like in decades ahead of, females right now proudly put on jeans as they engage in the ongoing fight in the direction of gender equality around the world. As fashions alter and society evolves, girls continue to adore the practical nature of jeans, and, thankfully, now they don’t have to steal them from the men’s segment.
Sources not linked:
 Mendes, Valerie and Amy De La Haye. Fashion Given that 1900. London: Thames & Hudson, 2010.
[two] van der Kley, Francesca. “Wrangling the Dude.” Vogue. March one, 1934.
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