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And Strauss, Created He Them

May 2024
1min read

Carin C. Quinn’s “The Jeaning of America—and the World” in our April/May, 1978, issue brought forth some interesting sidelights. The first came from Arthur H. Hahn of Washington, B.C., who tells us that he was particularly diverted by the Levi Strauss advertisement showing Michelangelo’s David clad in a pair of cutoff blue jeans. “It strikes me,” Mr. Hahn says, “that there must be a sort of affinity of Levis for Michelangelo. Remember the great Sistine Chapel ceiling, with God’s finger stretched to that of Adam? Well, some time ago, during a trip to Denmark, my wife and I saw a large billboard. Its central theme was the foregoing—except that the fingers were supporting the familiar blue denims!” The Sistine Chapel diversion was, like the David statue, one of a series of somewhat irreverent advertisements launched by Levi Strauss & Co. in Europe. Art lovers were not amused, however, and the series was discontinued.

A more recent advertising gimmick for the venerable pants may have better luck. It is a genuine hot-air balloon (opposite) lovingly shaped into an immense pair of blue jeans. Waist: 1160 inches; inseam: 1198 inches; patch: 108 inches by 84 inches; capacity: 65,000 cubic feet. Manufactured by Cameron Balloons Limited of Bristol, England, the balloon reportedly is floating around somewhere in the Netherlands.

Finally, we received a report from Robert White, who insists that he is the corresponding secretary for the Poor Boy Syndrome Therapy Group #1 of Billings, Montana. “Despite our general approval of Miss Quinn’s story,” he writes, “we regret to report that we have a Committee on Nit-Picking. … Miss Quinn states in her second paragraph that Levi Strauss invented blue jeans. Not so, our Committee contends. What Levi invented were Levis . … There were blue jeans around before Levi came along, and as evidence we cite … ‘Blue Jeans’ Williams,” who, Mr. White goes on to remind us, was governor of Indiana from 1877 until his death in office in 1880. Like many another politician of his era, Williams capitalized on his rural background and as his personal symbol chose the homespun clothing of his boyhood—Kentucky blue jeans, not only as pants but sometimes as complete suits, including one lined with silk and given to the governor by “ladies of Louisville, Kentucky.”

The Poor Boy committee is quite correct about the antiquity of the term “blue jeans,” of course. However, our Committee on Nit-Picking the NitPickers hastens to point out that since the governor’s blue jeans were made from wool , not the tough cotton denim that was one of the distinctive characteristics of Levi’s pants, it seems to us that the ghost of Levi Strauss can rest in peace.

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