On the 20th May 1873, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis secured the patent for riveted blue jeans. The rivets strengthened the jeans, reducing the likelihood of tearing and making them perfect for manual labour.
Strauss was a German-born businessman who sold fabric on the West Coast of the USA, and Davis was a Russian-born tailor working in Nevada. Their relationship began as supplier and customer – Davis used to buy fabric from Strauss’s warehouse to manufacture garments. It was Davis who came up with the idea of strengthening the stress points with rivets after the wife of a woodcutter asked if he could make a pair of durable trousers for her husband.
Realising that his idea had enormous potential, Davis wanted to patent it. He approached Strauss with a business proposal whereby Strauss would finance the paperwork and the two men would share the patent. Strauss agreed, and patent 139,121 was granted on 20th May 1873. In return, Davis became the production manager for Levi Strauss & Co.
Known as ‘waist overalls’ at the time, the term ‘jeans’ didn’t become associated with the finished product until sometime in the 1920s. However, the product proved an enormous success, leading the company to open their first factory less than a decade later. Interestingly, just a few months after securing the patent for copper riveted jeans, Davis came up with another idea that still exists on Levi jeans – the double orange thread design on the back pocket.