You probably already know that jeans were originally designed as workwear. They were made to be durable and practical. In this video—which is a preview of the lesson from the Denim 101 course—I briefly explain why jeans have rivets.
Denim 101 is an online course for anyone who works with denim and jeans. It teaches you essential product knowledge and storytelling techniques to you help improve the way you.
The Origin of Riveted Denim Workwear
In the beginning of the 1870s, Jacob W. Davis, a tailor from Reno in Nevada, started hammering copper rivets onto the places where his customers would often rip their pants; at the pocket corners and the base of the fly.
The rivet was a simple, durable and elegant solution to an urgent need for durability. It kept pockets and seams from bursting when miners and workers wore their pants during heavy work.
It’s unlikely that he realised it at the time, but Davis had invented what’s know the most important defining feature of jeans.
The rivet also differentiated Davis’s pants from those his competitors produced, which made them an instant success. This meant rivals soon began imitating his design.
Davis knew he was onto something, so he partnered up with one of his fabric suppliers from San Francisco. That supplier was Levi Strauss. In 1873, they got the patent to use rivets on denim workwear, and by US patent law of the time, they held onto the patent until 1890.
For those 17 years, competitors developed alternative strengthening methods. But none of them was a match for the simplicity and durability of the copper rivet. When the patent expired, rivets became a standard feature of jeans from all brands.
Even though some jeans don’t have rivets at all—and even though most jeans wearers in the 21st century don’t really need the durability that rivets offer—it’s still there because it’s become a defining feature of jeans.
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