After the Trench , we will continue to pay homage to another icon of our wardrobes: Jeans.
Didn't the immense Yves Saint-Laurent declare: "I only have one regret, not having invented Jean". We are not far from the register of the canonization of the object by the Pope of fashion!
Before his canonization, John traveled through history, between popular traditions and myths.
In their grimoires, fashion historians find the first traces of the object in the Middle Ages, near Genoa. The men and women who animated this region of Liguria, which centuries later would make up beautiful Italy, rooted the tradition of hemp and cotton spinning. We called fustians these strong fabrics from which the foolproof clothing of peasants and workers was made.
Attentive and gifted readers, like me, for associations of cosmic or improbable ideas, it will not have escaped you that “Genoa”, as the music of words married its time and the countries it visited, must have mutated to become “djeenzz” among our Anglo-Saxon friends.
Because, in fact, we will find our fustians in the industrious England of the 18th century, near Manchester, which became a center of fabric weaving, to clothe an entire population of merchants, workers and navigators.
So Manchester, long before giving birth to the Beatles and tough footballers, began to diversify its production and the methods of manufacturing fabrics. Here a controversy arises which does not find an answer in the grimoires. The English created their jeans in a cotton fabric with a plain twill frame, which they called denim. Could this be a despoliation of the weavers of the beautiful city of Nîmes? Nothing is less certain, even if our regional pride suffers. On the other hand, it is established that our brave Nîmes were masters in weaving wool and silk, a material which is not used in the manufacture of Manchester jeans. It would seem that the “denim” of our English fustians referred to the weaving method borrowed from our Languedoc. This cross-fertilization of creativity was possible long before the Internet of snoopers on the lookout and the creation of Intellectual Property Institutes.
In any case, what happened happened more and more often and massively, with this young nation of pioneers that was the United States of the 19th century. Intensive cotton cultivation forced them to create their own denim jeans spinning industry. It is on this fertile ground, rich in all diversity and metamorphosis, full of risks and opportunities, that a young emigrant from Germany left New York in 1853, to follow the convoy of gold prospectors towards the west. He created his textile business in San Francisco, his name is Levi Strauss.
Entrepreneur at heart, pragmatic and visionary - it's compatible - the boy adapts the making of his jeans to the needs of the tireless people of pioneers, that is to say everyone west of the Rio Grande.
The first batch of denim used to make pants has the number…. 501. Well, well!
Birth of a myth: indigo-dyed warp thread, ecru weft thread, the mottled blue appearance stands out; 2 front pockets plus the small gusset pocket, a patch pocket behind, rivets to solidify the friction angles, orange stitching and the leather label sewn on the back... more than a brand, a timeless marker.
Our Levi Strauss, visionary and wise – this is just as compatible – hastened to register trademarks and patents, ensuring him a monopoly and a fortune. In 1890, once in the public domain, know-how and patents brought joy to Wrangler, Lee, Carthart and many others who were impatient to exploit the inexhaustible vein before the great machinery of sports wear and ready-to-wear… are in turn following suit.
You know the rest of the story. It surprisingly resembles the romantic epic of our trench coat. Originally intended to endure hardships, Hollywood seized the myth to place it in the endless Hall of Fame where it will rub shoulders with James Dean and Marilyn in the same way as the unknown carpenter and mason who wore it every day. days of labor to build the buildings of the new world. Over time, and according to any Darwinian theory of the evolution of species, Zazous, Kéké, scoundrels, aristos, starlets, cowboys, bikers, farmers, bimbos, fashionistas, rappers, Chinese, Africans, Latinos, bobos... non-exhaustive list tribes, some of whom will never speak to each other but who nevertheless find an invisible bond through this unique garment which transcends all divisions and all differences. Thank you Levi Strauss, that’s powerful!