4 Defining Features of Jeans That Originally Served Practical Purposes
Shoes have soles and uppers. An oxford shirt has a button-down collar and a basketweave fabric. A leather jacket has got, well, a shell made from some kind of leather. Everything’s got a combination of essential features; defining characteristics that make it what it is. The same goes for blue jeans.
There are around a dozen of the features that define the archetypical pair of five-pocket blue jeans. Not all jeans have five pockets, and not all are made from indigo-dyed denim. But the defining features are the basis for any trouser that is categorised as jeans. These are features that have historically distinguished jeans from other trousers.
In this series about the defining features of jeans, I look into the stories behind them. Why were they there in the first place? What function did they serve? And how has their purpose changed over the years? I will address the features based on their original intent.
The topic of this first episode is the features that originally served the purpose of durability and practicality. That includes rivets (and bartacks), the pockets, the seams and stitches (which you can learn more about here), and the denim fabric.
Some of these features have more than one purpose today. Most of us don’t really need our jeans to be durable or practical; we don’t rely on the rivets for durability, and some women’s jeans have ‘fake’ pockets. But, because the features have come to define the garment, they’re still there.
The three episodes in the series about the defining features of jeans focus on:
- Features that make jeans durable and practical (this episode)
- Features that help you differentiate one brand from another
- Features that make jeans fit and add support
Rivets: The Original Defining Feature of Jeans
Jeans have been around for centuries. They were made as workwear and served a practical purpose: to be durable and functional. That’s why they were made from denim; a durable, versatile and inexpensive fabric. It’s why the pockets were placed for easy access. It’s also why the stitch count is high, which makes the seams strong. And it’s why they featured reinforcements in places that are prone to tear.
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