When Levi Strauss first began making denim pants in late-19th-century San Francisco, they were known not as “jeans” but as “waist overalls.” Hardy, rip-resistant fabric had been used for centuries to make overalls for American laborers, but Strauss took this material into the modern era. With a patented new technique, he created a truly utilitarian trouser. And pants start at the waist, so: “waist overalls.”
A better branding decision: Strauss changed his own first name to “Levi,” after moving west to reinvent himself as a drygoods tycoon and abandoning his parents’ original choice, “Loeb.” We almost lived in a world in which people posted Instagram photos of their butts in vintage Loeb 501s and serenaded “Apple Bottom Waist Overalls.”
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