I learned a cool story about the history of jeans today on Dinner Party Download (which is an entertaining public radio show and podcast).
Apparently, jeans were first invented 500 years ago in Italy. They came from Genoa, which is where they got the name (“Gene”). Kind of like parmesan cheese from Parma. At about the same time, they were also invested in France, in Nimes (de Nimes – hence the name “denim”). Both were popular among working people. Denim for manual laborers because they were tough. Genes for office workers because they were cotton.
But in 1873, Jacob Denis figured out that by using metal rivets to attach the pieces, they wouldn’t fall apart under rigorous manual labor. So he and his friend and fabric entrepreneur Levi Strauss patented the idea and Levi’s waist overalls were invented. They became really popular.
But as we see happening just as much today, the word “jeans” was much more popular than “overalls”. So the two of them gave in to popular demand and changed the name to Levi’s jeans. But not until 1960, almost 100 years later. That is stubborn!!! So the name jeans, from the Italian, is a total misnomer because there is nothing in jeans that came from the Italian product. But hey, that’s marketing.
A tradition at Dinner Party Download is that they ask a bartender to make up a cocktail to match the story. Here is the “California Bleu Gene” (mixing US, French, and Italian):
- 2oz of Cyrus Noble Bourbon (from Kentucky but with roots in California)
- .50oz of Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao (French and to make it blue)
- .25 of Santa Maria Amaro (Italian)
- on the rocks with an orange twist (for the rivets)