Sales of the iconic blues fell 6 percent during the past year after decades of almost steady growth

BIRTH OF THE BLUES

It’s one of the few times jeans haven’t been at the forefront of what’s “trending.” Businessman Levi Strauss and tailor Jacob Davis invented jeans in 1873 after getting a patent to create cotton denim workpants with copper rivets in certain areas like the pocket corner to make them stronger. By the 1920s, Levi’s original 501 jeans had become top-selling men’s workpants, according to Levi’s corporate website.

Over the next couple of decades, the pants went mainstream. In 1934, Levi’s took advantage of the rise in Western movies and launched its first jeans aimed at affluent women who wanted to wear them on dude ranches. Then teens boosted popularity of the pants, first among the greasy-hair-and-leather-jacket set in the 1950s and then, the hippies in the 1960s.

But teens’ biggest contribution to jeans’ rise was the name itself: Until the 1950s, the pants were called overalls or waist overalls, but in the following decade, teens started referring to them as jeans. During that time, jeans took on a bad-boy image — popularized by actors like James Dean and Marlon Brando in such roles — which led many schools to ban kids from wearing them to class.

In 1960, Levi’s began using the ‘jeans’ name in ads and packaging. And over the next few decades, jeans became even more of a way for people to express themselves. In the 1960s to early 1970s, hip-huggers and bell bottoms became an anti-establishment statement. Then in the 1970s and early 1980s, jeans became a status symbol when designer brands like Jordache rolled out more chic versions. More recently, names like 7 For All Mankind made $200 jeans, helping to push sales up by 10 percent to $10 billion in 2000, NPD said.

IRONING IT OUT

Jeans have faced other rough patches. One came in the mid-1970s, when denim sales fell 3 to 4 percent, while corduroy pants surged in popularity, with sales rising 10 to 12 percent, according to NPD estimates.

NPD declined to offer more historical sales data because of changes it made in its methodology recently, but the group’s chief industry analyst Marshal Cohen says jean sales fell about 3 percent again with the resurgence of khakis 12 years ago. That was the last decline until now.

1 2 3 4

Share