History of Levi’s®

Born Out West

May 4, 2019

For nearly a century and a half, Levi’s® jeans have been woven into the very fabric of American history and culture. Today, we look back at how Levi Strauss got his start and how adding rivets to pant pockets paved the way for a new way to wear denim.

The Great Journey

Many people don’t know that their favorite jeans are named after a Jewish German-American immigrant. Born in Buttenheim, Germany, Levi Strauss fled to New York when he was 18-years-old to escape the repressive laws Jews faced in 1840s Germany. Less than 10 years later, Strauss moved to San Francisco to start his own wholesale dry goods business, selling everything from purses to bedding. His business thrived for 20 years before the pants that changed everything were born.

The Blue Jean Is Born

After Strauss met Jacob Davis, a tailor from Reno, Nevada, the two decided to combine their skills and set out to create and patent the first blue jean. The end product? Riveted denim. The simple act of placing copper rivets in the corners of pockets kept them from ripping and made the openings stronger and more secure. In 1873, Levi Strauss & Co. and Jacob Davis received U.S. Patent No. 139,121 for Improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings.


Although denim had been used for workwear for years, the newly added rivets were a game-changer. Within a short time, Levi’s® waist overalls – or jeans as we call them today – were a huge success.

Denim Built The West

It was not uncommon to see the working men of the 19th Century wearing Levi’s® waist overalls. They were the unofficial uniform of miners during the Gold Rush – sturdy and long-lasting. And in booming cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles that were developing fast, workers needed pants that would meet the challenges of life in the pre-urban west.

The First Jeans for Women

In the 1930s many women started wearing men’s 501® Jeans because they were tough enough to withstand daily life on a ranch. In 1934, Lady Levi’s® – also called Lot 701 – were created, giving women the same freedom offered to men in a style that was designed just for them.


We’ve come a long way since the first pair of Levi’s® jeans. Today, we make clothes for everyone and every lifestyle, through the trailblazing spirit that started it all.


Check out our 501® jeans and Lot 700 fits to see the evolution of our iconic styles.


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