• Levi Strauss found it difficult to make a living as a peddler in Kentucky. So in 1849 with the news of the California Gold Rush, he packed up his merchandise and headed for San Francisco. It was a long journey by boat around Cape Horn. By the time he reached California, Levi had sold all his wares to passengers on the boat. The only thing he had left was a few rolls of canvas.
• He tried to sell the canvas as tent material or wagon covers, but the prospectors only had one request— they wanted pants. They wanted pants that would stand up to the wear and tear of the gold diggings. Dungarees had been around for a long time, made of cloth that originated in the 1600’s in India, in the town of Dungri, a suburb of Bombay. But Levi’s canvas was sturdier than dungarees.
• He hired a tailor to turn his canvas into durable overalls, and they sold like hotcakes. Levi Strauss gave up his plans of prospecting and sent for more material. He knew there was a better material for clothing. It was manufactured in the French town of Nimes. The French called it “serge de Nimes,” meaning “cloth of Nimes.” But Americans just called it “denim.”
• The material was also made in the Italian town of Genoa, where it was made into clothing for the Italian army to wear on duty. The French word for Genoa is “Genes” and is the origin of the word “jeans.”
• Levi dyed the material blue because it was the most consistent dye, and the cloth matched when sewn together. It also had the advantage of being dark enough in color to hide dirt. Levi Strauss patented his pants design in 1873. He added a tiny extra pocket, designed to hold a pocket watch.
• The next big improvement came when a miner known as Alkali Ike kept ripping out his pockets by stuffing them full of ore samples. He kept taking them to a local tailor to be resewn. After several times, the tailor as a joke took the torn pants to a blacksmith and had him put a rivet in the pocket corners. It worked— the pockets never again ripped out, and Levi adopted the idea.
• In fact, a construction worker in Fort Worth was once working on a 52-story building when a crane accidentally hooked him by his pocket. He hung high above the ground, but the pocket held out until he was rescued.
• Levi’s pants continued to expand in popularity until they were being worn around the world.
• Levi Strauss never wore a pair of his own jeans. He was wealthy and thought jeans were made for poorer people.
• Making of one pair of Levi 501s requires 37 separate sewing operations.
• Today, over 50% of denim is produced in China, India, and Bangladesh.
• A billboard in Italy depicted Michelangelo’s picture of God stretching forth his hand to Adam as God offering a naked Adam a pair of jeans. Lana Turner wore them studded with diamonds; Marlon Brando wore them to black-tie affairs. In 1951, Bing Crosby was refused a hotel room because he was wearing jeans. In response to this, Levi’s designed a denim jacket especially for him.
• Yearly, about 450 million jeans articles are sold worldwide. Around 7.5 billion feet of denim fabric is produced every single year.
• The average American has about 7 pairs of jeans in their closet.

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