HISTORY OF DENIM AS WORKWEAR
Everyone has their favorite pair of jeans. Whether it’s heavyweight denim carpenter jeans or denim with reinforced seams for working in the auto shop, jeans are dependable, tough and comfortable. Did you know denim has its roots in workwear? Let’s take a look at how this fabric became a workwear powerhouse.
1860s – Denim is born out of necessity. During the Gold Rush in San Francisco, miners were asking for sturdy and durable workpants. Levi Strauss made pants from heavyweight denim (from serge de Nimes, a twill made in southern France), which was dyed with indigo – hence the name blue jeans. Indigo was inexpensive and easy to acquire. Also, indigo maintains its color fastness when laundered. Leg openings were wide enough to go over work boots.
1890s – Copper rivets are used to reinforce the stress points on pocket corners. Was it because all the gold nuggets were weighing down the pockets and causing tears? Maybe. Denim pants soon became the choice of workwear for miners, lumberjacks, cowboys, ranchers, farmers and factory workers because of their toughness and affordability.
1918 – U.S. Overall Company (later renamed Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing Company) is formed, with a focus on selling denim bib overalls to southern workers.
1920s – Belt loops are added to denim (suspender buttons still remain for those who aren’t ready to ditch their suspenders). Around the same time, the first zipper fly is designed.
1923 – Harlin Bros. & Williams (now Red Kap) begins selling bib overalls and soon expands to premium workwear.
1934 – Finally! The world’s first jeans exclusively for women are made – Lady Levi’s. The target audience is women working on farms and ranches.
1940s – After WWII, Red Kap joined forces with a network of laundries to pick up, deliver and supply fresh uniforms to a variety of businesses.
1947 – Wrangler authentic western jeans are introduced and worn by professional rodeo cowboys.
1950s – Denim starts being worn as a means of rebellion. Think Marlon Brando in “The Wild One” and James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause.”
1963 – Wrangler introduces pre-shrunk, 14-oz. denim, the heaviest denim made at the time, in their western jeans.
1960s/70s – Borrowing from the fields and factories, denim starts to go fashionable. Manufacturers introduce different styles and fits of jeans.
1990 – Bulwark FR (originally Protective Apparel) is born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, manufacturing flame resistant jeans and coveralls.
Today there are relaxed fit, classic fit, slim fit, carpenter, overalls and color denim. There are also denim options that are flame resistant and use various fabric blends for softness and comfort. With all the improvements and advancements in denim, it continues to be a top choice for industrial workers worldwide. Browse our selection of workwear denim on our Web Store and find your favorite pair for on the job.
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