It’s been way too long since we looked at the origin of a well known word or phrase, so to make up for it I’m providing my readers with two for the price of one today – and we’re looking at denim jeans!
I suspect that many people would think, as I did, that they were an American invention, worn by cowboys and ranchers because they were made of tough material. But that would be far from the truth – approximately 4,000 miles distant, in fact.
I always like to get something nautical into my word origins, and I’m happy to be able to report that back in ye olde days of sail
sailors began to appear in France wearing clothing made of ‘jean’ material, and they were from Genoa, where it was invented. Possibly. But sailors or otherwise, the French name for Genoa is Gênes, and this is where the ‘jeans’ is thought to have originated.
The denim part also comes from France. In the French town of Nimes they produced their own version, and when it became popular it was referred to as being of, or from, Nimes, ie de Nimes.
It was centuries later that Levi Strauss patented the idea (not his, apparently) of adding the rivets to trousers made of this type of material, giving jeans the distinctive look we know today.