10 Iconic American Things With Foreign Roots
Speaking of cowboys, there is one thing the Wild West made popular that’s still a staple in today’s fashion – blue jeans. These are worn by everyone from billionaire celebrities to lower class laborers, whether for comfort, appearance or durability.
Even though the first pair of jeans was indeed made and worn in the United States, the creation was a joint effort by two immigrants. One was Jacob Youphes, a tailor who was born in Riga (modern day Latvia, Russian Empire at the time) and changed his name to Jacob Davis after arriving in New York City in 1854. The other was a German-born dry goods merchant from Bavaria with a name that’s still very well known to this day – Levi Strauss.
One day, the wife of a local laborer asked Davis to make her husband a pair of pants that wouldn’t fall apart, so he came up with the idea of putting rivets onto the points of highest strain – the pocket corners and fly base. After these pants became a hit, Davis decided to patent his innovation, but he needed a business partner to produce them in mass quantities. He immediately thought of Strauss, who had sold him the cloth for the original pair. Levi saw potential in the idea and agreed to his proposal. They received the patent on May 20, 1873 and hold it jointly.
It should be noted that denim pants were around for years even before Strauss and Davis, but it’s the rivets that make them jeans. Even the word “jeans” has foreign origins; it is a reference to the Italian city of Genoa, whose sailors would wear uniforms very similar in color to the iconic pants.
Source: History of Denim (levistrauss.com)