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The Chemical Reason Why the Original Jeans Were Blue (And Why They’re Called Jeans or Denim)

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Jeans, which the Language Academy prefers that we call “jeans”, could be used as an alternative meaning of the word ubiquity.

Although in a few places in the world their use is restricted, they seem to be everywhere, from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe, from Greenland in the north to the southernmost cities of Chile.

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In fact, according to the Global Denim Project, which analyzed the history, scope, economics, and consequences of denim’s global dominance, any day of any yearthe majority of the world’s population is wearing at least one item of that fabric.

Historians still debate his birthplace, but one of the most talked about opinions is that it was Nimes, France.

Serendipity, as often happens in moments of creation, played its part.

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The Nimes weavers were trying to replicate a strong cotton fabric known as ‘Jean Fustian‘, a robust medieval cotton and linen cloth made in Genoa, which was spelled Gene or Genes and, in mid-16th century France, Jean.

Although they failed, they realized that they had developed a unique and resistant fabric like no other.

It was a braided cotton twill that they made by passing the weft under the warp threads (those that are placed on the loom in parallel to form a cloth).

Nimes weavers were trying to replicate a strong cotton fabric known as ‘jean fustian’. Photo: Getty Images Photo: BBC World

They used indigo, one of the oldest dyes, to dye the warp threads blue, but left the weft threads their natural white color.

The process gave the fabric a unique blue color on one side and white on the other.

They call him Serge of Nimes or Spanish serga de Nimes. The key, in this case, is that, in the 17th century, it entered English as “serge denim”.

A hunch

So something akin to denim had been around for a while, dyed with the indigo from plantations in India.

But jeans as we know them came a little laterwith the meeting of a Latvian, Jākobs Jufess, and a German, Löb Strauß.

Like many of the new immigrants to America in the 19th century, they changed their names upon arrival: Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss.

In the 1870s Tailor Davis was commissioned to make a very sturdy pair of work trousers.

He had the hunch that if I took a piece of small metal rivet and put it on the stress points of a pair of pants, right around the pocket area, I could create a very durable pair of pants.

Patent drawing for ‘holding pocket openings’ by Jacob Davis (as JW Davis), May 20, 1873. Photo: Getty Images Photo: BBC World

The hunch turned out to be correct.

The pants were so well received that word began to spread and he received so many requests that he decided to write to his fabric supplier, Levi Strauss in San Francisco and ask if he was interested in getting a patent.

Strauss seized the opportunity, invited Jacob Davis to move to San Francisco, and together they manufactured the world’s first jeans.

That color they have…

They originally offered two varieties: brown canvas and blue denim.

But while the blue jeans they sold like hot cakes, few wanted the others.

According to historian Lynn Downey in “A Short History of Denim,” the reason was probably that “as soon as someone wore a pair of blue jeans, they experienced (…) how they got more comfortable with each wash, they didn’t want jeans.” canvas, because with those you always feel as if you had a tent set up”.

That quality of adapting to the body of each person, becoming a second skin that wears out with the passage of life, made them omnipresent. Photo: Getty Images Photo: BBC World

However, that does not explain why the preferred color was the same indigo that Nimes weavers had used centuries ago.

Although a little yes.

The original denim was dyed with plant dye Indigofera tinctoria.

Unlike most natural dyes which, at high temperatures, penetrate the fabric fibers directly, indigo adheres only to the outside of the threads.

Washing rough denim removes some of these dye molecules, taking minuscule amounts of the threads with them, but because the material is so strong, losing a few fibers doesn’t ruin it.

In fact, it improves it. the more you wash it, the softer it gets.

For workers, a garment strong enough to withstand hard work that became more comfortable but not delicate, was ideal.

That quality of adapting to the body of each person, becoming a second skin that wears out with the passage of life, made them ubiquitous.

In a way, a fabric that looks better as it ages is the perfect invention. (YO)

Source: Eluniverso

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