Jeans are trousers made from denim. Mainly designed for work, they became popular among teenagers starting in the 1950s. Historic brands include Levi's and Wrangler. Today, jeans are a very popular form of casual dress around the world and come in many styles and colors, with the "blue jeans" particularly identified with the American culture, especially the American Old West. Americans spent more than $14 billion on jeans in 2004. In 1895 you could buy jeans for $1.50. Today, some jeans cost $200 to $500 with limited-edition and collectibles costing up to $2000.
The earliest known precursor to jeans is the Indian export of a thick cotton cloth, in the 16th century, known as dungaree. Dyed in indigo, it was sold near the Dongarii Fort near Bombay, and cut by sailors to suit their needs.
Jeans fabric was made in Chieri, a town near Turin (Italy), in the 1600s. It was sold through the harbour of Genoa, which was the capital of an independent republic, and a naval power. The first were made for the Genoese Navy because it required all-purpose pants for its sailors that could be worn wet or dry, and whose legs could easily be rolled up to wear while swabbing the deck. These jeans would be laundered by dragging them in large mesh nets behind the ship, and the sea water would bleach them white. According to many people the jeans name comes from bleu de Gênes, i.e., blue of Genoa. The raw material originally came from the city of Nîmes (France) Serge de Nîmes i.e. denim.
Initially, blue jeans were simply sturdy trousers worn by workers, especially in the factories during World War II. During this period, men's jeans had the zipper down the front, whereas women's jeans had the zipper down the right side. By the 1960s, both men's and women's jeans had the zipper down the front. In the United States during the 1950s, wearing of blue jeans by teenagers and young adults became symbolic of mild protest against conformity. This was considered by some older adults as disruptive; for example, some movie theaters and restaurants refused to admit patrons who wore blue jeans. During the 1960s the wearing of blue jeans became more acceptable and by the 1970s had become general fashion in the United States, at least for informal wear. Notably, in the mid-1950s the denim and textiles industry was revolutionized by the introduction of the stone-washing technique by GWG (Great Western Garment Co.). Entrepreneur, importer, and noted eccentric Donald Freeland of Edmonton, Alberta pioneered the method, which helped to bring denim to a larger and more versatile market. Denim suddenly became an attractive product for all age groups and Freeland became one of the most important innovators in the history of denim and denim products. It should be noted, also, that Freeland contributed to a variety of other denim textile developments throughout his career with Great Western Garments (GWG) Acceptance of jeans continued through the 1980s and 1990s to the point where jeans are now a wardrobe staple, with the average North American owning seven pairs.
As imported American products, jeans were somewhat expensive, especially in the case of the Soviet Union which restricted hard currency imports. In Spain they are known as vaqueros or "cowboys," in Danish cowboybukser meaning "cowboy pants" and in Chinese niuzaiku (SC: 牛仔裤), literally, "cowboy pants" (trousers), indicating their association with the American West, cowboy culture, and outdoors work. Similarly, the Hungarian name for jeans is "farmernadrág", meaning "farmer-trousers".
Jeans can be worn very loose in a manner that completely conceals the shape of the wearer's lower body, or they can be snugly fitting and accentuate the body. Historic photographs indicate that in the decades before they became a staple of fashion, jeans generally fit quite loosely, much like a pair of bib overalls without the bib. Indeed, until 1960, Levi Strauss denominated its flagship product "waist overalls" rather than "jeans".
Fits of jeans are determined by current styles, sex, and by the manufacturer. Here are some of the fits produced for jeans:
Rises in jeans (the distance from the crotch to the waistband) range from high-waisted to superlow-rise (Low rise can be called Low Riders). Jeans for men usually have a longer rise and zipper, whereas women have a shorter rise and zipper, although exceptions do exist and this is largely a function of current trends. In decades past, when high-waisted jeans were popular, it was often the women's that featured a longer rise.