Look, you’ve probably worn jeans before. And if you’re some weirdo who hasn’t, you’ve definitely at least SEEN jeans before.
What I’m trying to say is jeans are pretty freakin’ common. Me? I think I’ve worn at least one pair of jeans a week for the last 10 years of my life.
And yet I have never once questioned this one little thing that all jeans have in common.
You know those tiny little buttons on your jean pockets that have nothing to do with anything?
I had just accepted those seemingly useless buttons as simply a part of jean fashion. That was like, their thing or whatever. That’s just how jeans are!
But as it turns out, these little guys have an ACTUAL PURPOSE.
But as it turns out, these little guys have an ACTUAL PURPOSE. Apparently those buttons are called rivets, and they’re there to prevent jeans from wearing out and ripping at the seam.
In 1871, Latvian immigrant Jacob Davis pioneered rivets while working as a tailor in Reno, Nev. Davis had originally used rivets on horse blankets, and he found they worked well for re-enforcing the stress point in men’s work trousers—particularly the corners of the back pockets and the crotch, which often tore apart when exposed to heavy duty wear and tear.
Since Davis did not have the money required to patent the technique of using rivets, he reached out to Levi Strauss to see if he was interested in applying with him. In 1873, the pair received a patent for “improvement in fastening pocket-openings.” This was the birth of what we now know as the blue jean. Today, rivets continue to strengthen and reinforce the most vulnerable parts of our jeans.
It’s worth noting that Levi Strauss & Co. was the first company to make riveted pants, creating a new category of workwear.
In pattern making, sewing and fitting, the crotch seam is said to be the most challenging construction element of a pair of pants.
Pattern makers use two important measurements to draft the curves that compose the crotch seam: crotch length and crotch depth. Crotch depth is determined by having a fit model sit in a chair, and then measuring the distance from their waistline to the seat. Crotch length is the distance from the top center front of the pants around to the top center back of the pants.
There’s a large amount of room for variation in the resulting curves with lots of potential for error, yet the shapes are essential components in obtaining the perfect fit.
If you’re a denimhead, surely you know all about the selvedge. For everyone else, what’s all the hype about?
The word selvedge refers to the tightly finished edge of any fabric when it comes off of the loom. Looms in the 1800s produced strips of denim that were long and narrow. To use the entire width of the fabric, the fabric’s edge, or “self-edge” was used as the side seam of the pant. This was efficient, and it also made the side seam inherently immune to fraying and unraveling.
Today, the vintage looms and narrow fabric widths required for production make selvedge jeans rarer and more expensive than jeans that finish with an overlock stitch at the side seams.
Bartack is a stitch that you might not have noticed on your denim. It looks like a line of short and close together stitches, used to reinforce jeans in places where they are most stressed during wear. Bartacks are usually seen around flies, crotch seams and pocket openings. These strong stiches are essentially a series of small zigzag stitches. In production, there is a special machine that makes this durable stitch.
Hems can be sewn with both a chain stitch and a lock stitch. Chain stitches allow the hem to twist and roll in a particular way after washing. This is called “roping.”
And what about thread color? The orange thread used on the original Levi’s has now become an industry standard. Legend has it that Jacob Davis originally insisted that the thread be orange to match the jean’s copper rivets. But we don’t know that to be fact. Many Levi Strauss & Co. records were lost in the 1906 earthquake and fire, so, as a result, we really don’t know why orange thread was chosen.
The more there is to know about your jeans, the more there is to love about them. Next time you step into your favorite pair of Levi’s, take extra notice of these special details.
Well, you learn something new every day. Shout out to Levi Strauss for making my jeans so long-lasting, even if I’m not going to be hitting the mines any time soon.