David Bowie, Neil Diamond and Lana Del Rey have written songs about them, while designer Yves Saint Laurent famously wished he had invented them. Andy Warhol professed that he hoped to one day die with his on.
Almost a century and a half later and it’s unlikely that Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis ever expected so much fanfare over a single item of clothing: blue jeans. Their invention wasn’t initially intended to be a fashion item, after all.
Here’s how it went down: The German-American businessman Levi Strauss left his immigrant parents on the East Coast and, inspired by their entrepreneurial spirit, decided to set shop on the West Coast. There, in San Francisco in 1853, he founded Levi Strauss & Co.
A tailor named Jacob Davis often purchased cloth from Strauss. When one of Davis’ own customers bought more cloth to reinforce torn pants, Davis had the idea to use copper rivets to reinforce the points of strain on the items, like on pocket corners. Starting to ring a bell?
Davis, who did not have the financial means to patent this invention, turned to Strauss to form a partnership so that the two could claim ownership. On May 20, 1873, Strauss and Davis received the government license from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
From here on, the copper rivets were used in the company’s jeans, and today, you’re still wearing them.
To honour what is arguably the ultimate style staple, we take a look at what some of the most influential people in the world had to say about blue jeans.
"I have often said that I wish I had invented blue jeans: the most spectacular, the most practical, the most relaxed and nonchalant. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity – all I hope for in my clothes.” – Yves Saint Laurent, fashion designer
"I want to die with my blue jeans on." – Andy Warhol, artist
"Blue jeans are the most beautiful things since the gondola." – Diana Vreeland, former editor-in-chief of US Vogue
"Fashion is mysterious, as a rule. Why are blue jeans a classic? You just hit on something that happens to be timeless and right." – Diane von Furstenberg, fashion designer
"I specifically left the corporate world so I could wear T-shirts, blue jeans, and honestly, I always wanted to be my own boss." – Guy Fieri, restaurateur
"It is hard to think that a $2 billion company with 4,300-plus people couldn't compete with six people in blue jeans." – Steve Jobs, founder of Apple