Items: Is Fashion Modern?

Levi Strauss & Co. waist overalls, 1890. Courtesy Levi Strauss & Co. Archives (San Francisco)

Levi Strauss & Co. Jeans. 1890

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Levi Strauss & Co. waist overalls, 1890. Courtesy Levi Strauss & Co. Archives (San Francisco)

Emma McClendon: My name is Emma McClendon. I am the assistant curator of costume at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

On any given day, over half the world's population is wearing jeans. And that’s truly staggering to think about and it really points to jeans as that incredibly sort of homogenizing force in modern culture and globalization.

The marks and rips and tears that we feel give jeans more value, are so much a part of memory and personal memory and object memory and they can really tell you a lot about who actually owned the jeans. So where their knee fell, where their iPhone is kept. But also where particular tools or how much they worked on their knees or how much they sat at a desk. All of these things are very visible because of the nature of the textile, how the fabric itself is dyed.

Levi’s really are pioneering branding as decoration, you know on the outside of garments. They've got that double arch stitching, on the back pockets, and that has been around since at least 1890 as a branding detail. These copper metal rivets, that red tab that they put on their jeans that says Levi’s on it.

At the end of the day, they’re the same garment, they’re different variations of this one particular style. They're all five pocket riveted jeans.

Levi Strauss & Co. waist overalls, 1890. Courtesy Levi Strauss & Co. Archives (San Francisco)
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