Italy Steals Credit for Denim Jeans Away From France

by Sabrina Maddeaux on Sep 22nd, 2010 in News

The denim jean- an American classic associated with cowboys of the Wild West, rock and roll, and good old Yankee rebellion, was actually born in Europe. Until recently, France took credit for creating the popular pant. However, new art discoveries may change the beloved blue jean’s history.

Although some sources perpetuate the myth of Levi Strauss inventing the denim jean  in the heydays of the California gold rush,  true history buffs know denim history dates back to Europe in the the 1700s.  Strauss’ “jean pants” launched denim into the mass-market, but traditional thought credits France with the true innovation. 

The word “jeans” actually derives from the French phrase “bleu de Genes,” meaning blue of Genoa. History claimed denim fabric got its start in the French town of Nimes, from which denim, “de Nimes,” gets its name.

Ten recently discovered paintings may turn history on its head. The unknown artist’s work, believed to be from Northern Italy, shows scenes of Italian peasants wearing early denim material in the 1650s.  The paintings show skirts and jackets of the deep denim blue color, stitched with white fabric as jeans often are today. The artist has been nicknamed the “Master of the Blue Jeans,” and his paintings released in a show at the Galerie Canesso in Paris this week.

Documents detailing jean’s earliest manufacture and export are scarce, so much of their history relies on historical artwork. The denim jean, its popularity spanning centuries, might just be one of the longest standing fashion trends. It’s quite something to think that the style so associated with youth and vitality is actually quite ancient!

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