Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis were business partners nearly 150 years ago. They used small metal rivets to change the world. The wholesale dry goods businessman and tailor patented the idea of strengthening men’s work pants at their weakest seam locations.
Rivets worked well with denim, the traditional fabric used for workwear. Waist overalls, the original name for the new apparel, became known as blue jeans. The name was shortened to jeans by the baby boomer generation in the 1960s.
How could Strauss and Davis have ever foreseen the industry they created in San Francisco when they were granted a patent for their new creation in 1873? Men’s and women’s jeans for work and play. Jeans with more holes than fabric, an odd disrespect to the pants’ inventors. Jeans with fashion designers’ signatures and with unusual brand names, Flying Monkey to Rag and Bone, Good America to Citizens of Humanity. About 460 million pairs of jeans sold in the United States in 2021.
“We find that our customers still want to look put together while wearing jeans, therefore anything distressed usually doesn’t sell well,” says Blair DeLongy Sanchez, vice president of John Craig Clothier, the seven-store men’s apparel company with two locations in Naples. “Cleaner-looking washes with less whiskering sell best.”
Jeans rule the clothing industry, with skinny, slim, straight, bootcut, taper, relaxed, flare and big and tall options. There’s something for everyone.
Citizens of Humanity (pictured above)
Headquartered in Los Angeles, the upscale brand was launched in 2001 by Jerome Dahan, the former design chief for Lucky Brand. It’s now available in more than 35 countries and is immensely popular.
John Craig, Anthropologie, Manny’s Finewear, Tinkled Pink, Macy’s and Nordstrom Outlets in Southwest Florida all carry Citizens of Humanity jeans. The brand combines a sophisticated look, luxury detail, comfort, fit and top-line denim.
The company touts its product with the slogan “Before they are in your hands, each pair of our jeans passes through the hands of at least 40 skilled craftsmen.”
Joe Dahan was a fashion tycoon at age 18 with a men’s sportswear line bearing his name. Twenty-odd years ago, he introduced Joe’s Jeans, a collection of chic styles for women. It skyrocketed via different styles for different body types—The Honey, The Socialite, The Starlet and The Twiggy.
Headquartered in Los Angeles, the brand went nationwide in 2004 and into Europe four years later with a shop at Galeries Lafayette in Paris. Further success arrived in 2010 when Joe’s Jeans introduced the first “jean leggings.”
A decade ago, another Joe’s Jeans brand debuted exclusively at Macy’s, targeted toward women 18-35 wanting to wear premium denim.
Change is good, except for some jean purists. They wear only the original 501s, the Levi’s style named after a lot number. The originals are non-stretch and straight-leg with five pockets and a button fly. They date back more than 130 years and are so popular that “501s” has been at times a more commonly used term than the brand name.
Levi’s sells denim jackets and other apparel, but jeans remain its forte. More than two dozen men’s and women’s styles are available, designated with the company’s three-digit numbering system, all between 501 and 721.
The jeans’ longevity, ownership to global identity, has prompted a Levi’s vintage market, primarily sold on e-commerce sites. The originals are available nearly everywhere, from retail outlets to boutiques.
What’s in a name? Apparently, not even Julian Kivowitz, the company founder, knew where the name came from. A Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe who settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Kivowitz began his new life as a grocer. He applied for the trademark for an apparel company in 1936 and opened his first textile plant a year later.
Now a subsidiary of J. Crew Group, which bought the Madewell trademark in 2006, the company focuses on jeans for women ages 18 to 40. The New York-headquartered company has 17 retail outlets nationwide and offers myriad styles—straight leg to boy jeans, maternity to flare.
Madewell also sells other apparel, T-shirts to handbags. Its jeans are available in Southwest Florida at Nordstrom Rack and Target.