Monday, October 18, 2010

The Origin of Blue Jeans

Blue jeans, everybody has them. They are the staple of every person’s—at least every teenager’s—closet. You can buy flare, boot cut, or skinny jeans. Historians for a long time have traced the timeline of jeans to two probable locations: a tough fabric from the city of Nimes in France—the word “denim” comes from the phrase “de Nimes”—and a cotton material from a city in northern Italy, Genoa—“Genes” in French, which later became “jeans” in the English language. But which place is the origin of this mega-popular clothing item?

The answer to this question may be in the works of an anonymous 17th-century northern Italian artist. In each of this artist’s ten newly found paintings (except one) he portrays a blue indigo fabric that is threaded with white. This blue indigo fabric, for example, appears in the jacket of a beggar boy and in the skirts of a peasant woman. Gerlinde Gruber, curator of for Flemish Baroque paintings at the Picture Gallery of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, has dubbed this unknown artist the “Master of the Blue Jeans.” According to Gruber, it was unusual for a painter to depict the poor with great detail, which may be why jean fabric was not often portrayed in other artwork. The “Master of the Blue Jeans” however, did show the lives of the poor, and his inclusion of blue indigo fabric in his works could reflect the growing use of denim among the poor during his lifetime.

According to curators, the blue hue of the fabric depicted in this artist’s paintings is identical to the indigo that is used today to dye denim; further proof that today’s denim can claim northern Italy as its birthplace. But whether Italian or French, one thing is clear: jeans have gone from being a blue indigo fabric worn by lowly peasants and beggars to a must-have fundamental of a fashion-forward wardrobe, costing up to $600 a pair.

Ana N.
Period 7


DianaD said...

Wow I didn't know that the jeans we now consider today as our everyday attire originated all the way in Italy so long ago! I really liked how you explained the origin of "jeans" and "denim" - the names make sense now!! It is not only amazing that they found these paintings with peasants portrayed with/wearing blue jeans, but it's crazy that jeans have since become such a dominant part of American clothing and fashion.

Taylor said...

I had always thought that the origin of blue jeans was Levi Strauss, and that they were originally created for miners during the Gold Rush. Its incredible, the way common misconceptions can shape society's thoughts on a subject, such as the "barbaric and aimless" slaughtering by Genghis Khan, and the "heroic benevolence" Christopher Columbus.

Elizabeth said...

I tought that this was interesting because I did not know that the history of jeans went that far back. It is weird that back then the lowly peasants and beggars wore jeans or something similar, and now some pairs of jeans go for a lot more money and can be expensive.

Summer said...

I think is really cool!I love that jeans used to be clothes peasants wore, and today jeans can be a sign of wealth. I also liked how this article mentioned the artist's portayal of jeans, and the origin of the word.

Charisse said...

I really liked this article because you wouldn't think that jeans, an article of clothing so simple, could have so much meaning to it or be worth so much. To think that jeans go back in history that far is such a crazy idea to me.