My Men Wear Levi’s


I know why “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” is such a big hit. It’s the jeans. From teenagers to baby boomers, we can all relate. Slipping into a comfortable pair of jeans instantly lowers blood pressure, gets us humming, and on our best days, makes us feel sexy.

When I was in high school, the competition was between Levi’s®, Lee® and Wrangler®. These days, teenagers have a greater variety to choose from.  But I still love those originals.

In my Westerns, my men wear Levi’s. If they’re Mounties, they wear breeches while on duty, but off, they’re all in denim. There’s nothing like a man wearing only a pair of jeans, is there? 


Levi’s originated in San Francisco during the California Gold Rush. They were still popular twenty-five years later during the Klondike Gold Rush, where my books are set.  When I recently visited San Francisco, I discovered Levi’s flagship store in Union Square, the heart of the city. That’s it behind the palm trees at the top of the stairs.

In 1873, Levi Strauss was the first in the world to design a pair of blue jeans. He had a business partner, Jacob Davis, a tailor who came up with the idea for adding metal rivets. When their patent for metal rivets expired in 1891, dozens of other garment manufacturers added rivets to their jeans and jackets.   

Levi Strauss was born in Bavaria, Germany. When he was a boy (named Loeb at birth), he and his family emigrated to New York City. They ran a dry goods store. In 1853 when he was twenty-three, Levi moved to San Francisco. He opened a wholesale dry goods store of his own. Levi outfitted many smaller stores that were springing up all over the west coast. Items included jackets, overalls, coats, umbrellas and bolts of fabric.

Blue jeans were originally designed to withstand the wear-and-tear of the gold fields. The rivets gave extra strength to the pockets and kept the seams from ripping, while the denim twill weave was extra strong to withstand the assault of hard labor.

Denim twill weave gets its strength due to the diagonal ribbing that can be seen on the reverse side of the cloth. Maybe that’s why jeans mold to thighs and backsides like a great pair of leather gloves.

What’s the difference between denim and jean fabric? 

During weaving, denim has one thread that’s white, one that’s colored. Jean fabric has both threads in the same color. Hence those cheap imitations your mother tried to spring on you as a child.  “Oh, honey, they’re the same!”

The origin of the word denim is disputed. Some say it came from England, some France. Others say it was a mispronunciation of the French town where serge fabric was manufactured, “Serge de Nimes.” The debate continues.

There’s no clear reason why we began to interchange the word ‘denim’ with ‘blue jeans.’ In 1873, Levi’s blue jeans were originally referred to as ‘waist overalls.’

Regular ‘overalls’ (the kind with a bib) got their name because they were worn on top of trousers during work. In Britain, overalls were called dungarees. Dungarees got their name from the course calico cloth they were sewn from, originally from a place in India called Dongari Killa where the British had a fort. Dungaree cloth was thin and often poorly woven, and not to be confused with denim.

Blue jeans have always been a symbol of youth and rebellion. According to the Levi Strauss & Co. website, Bing Crosby was a big fan. In 1951 he went hunting with a friend in Canada, but when he tried to check into his Vancouver hotel, the front desk clerk wouldn’t let him in because his denims were not considered high class. The clerk didn’t recognize America’s most beloved singer. Luckily for Mr. Crosby, he was finally recognized by the bell hop. When Levi Strauss & Co. heard of his plight, they sewed him a tuxedo jacket, made of denim, of course. By 1958, newspapers claimed that ninety percent of America’s youth wore jeans everywhere except “in bed and in church.”

Jeans are more than a pair of pants. They’re a symbol of how we feel about ourselves. Don’t many women have a story about shedding a few pounds so they can get back into theirs? Valerie Bertinelli says so in her biography, LOSING IT.

Two years ago, I cleaned out my closet and finally threw out a pair I was saving…for over twenty years! I hadn’t realized it had been that long. They were already tight when I first bought them, and as soon as I had a glass of water, they no longer fit at all. Why was it so hard to throw them out? Maybe they were a symbol of my youth.

But you know what? Over the last few years, I’ve replaced them with some great below-the-belly-button jeans I hesitated to try before. (Mature women know what I’m talking about. Was I the only holdout?) The new ones look hipper than those other ones ever could and make me feel like a foxy mama.

Today I went shopping with my teenage daughter and she was thrilled to get a new pair of “skinny jeans.” Our parents used to say our jeans were painted on—today when I looked at my daughter, I knew how they felt looking at us.

So what about you? Do you have a favorite pair of jeans in your closet?  Or a favorite piece of clothing that makes you feel great when you wear it?

 What do your men wear?


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42 thoughts on “My Men Wear Levi’s”

  1. Jeans, jeans, jeans!

    Unless of course they’re a Lawyer (A Hero for Jessica), Computer Programmer (Cathy’s Angel) or a Letter Carrier (The Inheritance) 🙂

    I remember in high school – Wrangler “Student Cut” straight-leg, white t-shirt and track shoes.

    Yep, even us girls and the fact that I tanned really well…was a plus against that white 🙂

    Interesting post!


  2. Hi Pam! Your stories sound great! 🙂

    I remember that look in high school, too–jeans, white T-shirt and track shoes–and it hasn’t gone out of style. That’s still what kids are wearing. But everything is cut just a little bit different…

    White T-shirts are still in, but I could do a whole other blog on bras, though. When I was growing up, we only had a choice between white or ‘natural’ color, but these days they’ve got every color and pattern going. And it seems like it’s hip to show a bit of the straps, like it’s an accessory or something. I just don’t get that. Pretty colors, yes; on display, no. LOL

  3. Kate, I am a person who throws things away. I’m not particularly sentimental about special shoes or dresses or memorabilia. I keep photo albums but not christening gowns.

    And I almost never regret throwing things away.

    But one mild regret I have is that I threw away a pair of jeans I wore through two years of highschool and two years of college.

    This was in the seventies and my ragged, batter, patched jeans were my pride and joy. I’ve always wished I’d saved them to show my kids. Just as a demostration that I was young once (thin, too)
    I would buy patches, brightly colored-like a strawberry or whatever I could find sorting through the bins at a fabric store, when a new hole would crop up. I must have had twenty patched, almost all on the butt of those worn out jeans.

    The days of those jeans ended when I bought patches shaped like letters in my boyfriends name (now my husband) and sewed his name on my backside.

    Well, for someone who thought she was pretty cool in those jeans, you can’t BELIEVE the… uh … let’s say tasteless … jokes about that his name and it’s placement.

    I finally switched over from cocky to embarrased. What a coward.

    But the jeans were retired. I still kept them for a long, long, time though.

    I kinda wish I’d kept my tight hip-huggers with the bright vertical stripes in primary colors and the blue leather that laced up the fly instead of a zipper.

    Oh. I. Was. So. Cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Mary, LOL on your story! I loved seeing those patches! I had a couple on my jeans, but nothing like you describe. They sound so pretty. Good thing you wound up marrying the guy with the sensitively-placed ones.

    And those hip-huggers with the vertical stripes! I never had any due to tight budgeting in the family, but they were so cool. They reminded me of stuff Goldie Hawn and crowd used to wear on Laugh In. Those were the days! I’m sure your kids would’ve gotten a kick out of seeing them.

  5. Okay, I’m back. What I said before I was deleted, was that back in the day I wore those faded jeans. It was the style, but they weren’t on the shelves like that. My friends and I would wash and wash and wash the ### out of them to get that cool faded look. And if the hems tore, all the better!
    I just bought a pair of skinny jeans, from Nordstrom. They are the most comfortable pair I own! I love the way they make me feel.

    Rodeo riders and cowboys wear Wranglers. But I’ve never bought a pair. We are truly a Levi’s family!

  6. Hi Kate, what a terrific post! Thank you. All my men wear jeans…my 20-month old grandson’s even have zippers LOL! When I taught high school (Catholic, uniforms), the huge fundraiser whenever a club needed money was to have Jeans Day where the kids paid a dollar to wear them LOL.

    My son (real restate development) has jeans day every Friday at the office.

    Thanks again for a great read.

  7. Hi Charlene, I’m glad the messages are working again. Hope nobody else is stopped from posting.

    Yes, those faded jeans! We used to add bleach to our water to hasten the process. Bleached was cool.

    You’re so lucky you fit into a pair of skinny jeans! (Probably not luck, LOL, but good diet and exercise that got you in such good shape.) I was surprised to hear you say they’re comfortable, but I guess they mold to the body, so I believe you.

    I didn’t know that Wranglers were the choice of jeans for modern-day cowboys! Interesting tidbit. I did a quick search on the internet, and Wranglers were born in 1947. A tailor worked closely with cowboys to design them for the rodeo. Thanks for sharing that!

  8. Hi Tanya! LOL on all your men wearing jeans. Your little grandson must look cute in his, zipper and all.

    I think those relaxed Fridays where workers wear jeans are very popular everywhere these days. We have them here in Toronto, too. So much more comfortable to work in jeans than a business suit. Or business skirt. At the Catholic schools here, too, they’ve got ‘Civies Day’ once a month and the kids wear them. Thanks for posting!

  9. I saved my 60s jeans – bell bottoms — peace signs! and my daughters wore them to costume parties and theme dances. They are long gone now, unless they still have a pair or two tucked away. I have made it a rule that if I wore it “in the day” I would not wear it again when it came back into style, so I will do a little flare, but not much.

    I wore those hip riders, too, but prefer mine not so low. Like you said about the bra straps, I take issue with jeans and pants cut so low and thongs hiked up so high that you can see the elastic! That’s just wrong on so many levels.

    I don’t have a body for Levis because I’m long-waisted, so I usually prefer Liz jeans beause they fit me well. My daughter and I went to Old Navy for the $12 sale Saturday, and I got a couple of pair there. I’m still deciding if I like them or not. They may have to go back.

    She watches ebay for her favorites, I think they’re Blue Star, but then she’s a size 3 or some such ridiculous number.

    It seems I always have a stack of out-of-style jeans to get rid of – how can they change in style so much?

    You know what I want some day? One of those awesome purses made out of the top of faded jeans w/ a belt. I think they’re so cool.

  10. Hey, Cheryl, even Peace signs are coming back now, LOL! I bought a bracelet in California and it’s just a bunch of peace signs drawn onto a silver bangle.

    What a smart thing to save your bell bottoms. Must’ve been funny to see your daughters in them. Size 3? Lucky girl.

    That’s interesting about watching for Blue Stars on e-Bay. I never would have thought e-Bay would be so popular for that kind of thing. It’s partly the fun of searching for them and finding them, I’m sure.

    Oh, those purses! They’re so cute. When I was in high school I made one out of an old pair of faded jeans. Back in the day when my eyes were better for sewing….

    I bet you look good in your Liz jeans! 🙂

  11. Hi Kate,

    I asbolutely love wearing jeans, no matter what brand. I own both Levis and Wranglers. Shoot, I didn’t want to discriminate! lol I can’t say which are the most comfortable. They’re the best things since sliced bread.

    Remember when they didn’t come in pre-washed and were stiff as a board until you washed them several times? I recall my mother had what was called pant stretchers to keep them from shrinking. Pant stretchers were made of metal and you slipped them inside the legs while there were wet. Crazy things to remember. But that was back in the 50’s. My brother wore Levis but Mama made us girls wear dresses back then. Oh, and I remember how my brother used to fold up the bottom into a cuff like Elvis did in the early days. And my brother also had his hair cut in a ducktail. My parents were furious. 🙂

    Thanks for letting me relive some memories. Great subject!

  12. Hi Linda!

    I’ve never owned a pair of Wranglers. Maybe I should try a pair sometime! How funny about the pant stretchers. I’ve never heard of those before, so your explanation was interesting. Jeans still shrink today, even though they come pre-washed and pre-shrunk. I don’t think many moms or kids would have the patience to use pant stretchers, though. Those cuffs were big in my day, too!

  13. I love wearing jeans but since I gained all the weight after retiring from the military and then have 2 more kids, jeans don’t like me. 🙁

    But Kate, I wanted to tell you that I love your pics today. I loaded up P&P and ooohhhh you almost knocked me out of my chair! I gotta go look for my 3D glasses!!!

    I picked up my youngest on Sat after a week of Bible camp at the Circle Square Ranch. And yesterday, we picked up our daughter after being at the ranch all summer counselling. That means I get to take them for school supplies today since school starts here in Sask on Wed.

    But, I’ll check in later…

  14. Hi Anita Mae!

    I know the feeling with those jeans. I think we all have the same problem as we get older. Nothin’ fits like it used to! LOL

    Thanks for saying you liked the pics! I really like that first one, too, with the thundering horseback riders.

    I hear ya on the school supply shopping. Good luck with it!

  15. Hi Kate!
    I loved your post about jeans. It’s amazing how they are the ultimate longest lasting fashion fad. Different styles, different fits, but I’d wager there’s more than one faded, worn in pair of jeans for every person on the planet. And yes, I’ve kept my fair share of them in the closet in the hopes that I’ll fit into them again one of these days, but you’re right. I’d probably look much better in a new pair anyway. I might as well go shopping right now! LOL

  16. << What a smart thing to save your bell bottoms. Must’ve been funny to see your daughters in them. Size 3? Lucky girl. >>

    Must clarify: size three daughter would drown in my jeans. Size 8-10 daughters wore my old ones! LOL

  17. Kate, nothing says cowboy like Levis! Or Wranglers, too.

    But for a middle-aged woman like me, (especially one who’s been weeks on deadline) one word when it comes to jeans.


    Great blog today!

  18. Hi JK! Welcome to the blog. 🙂

    LOL on going shopping right now! And what is it about us women that we store our jeans for skinnier days ahead?

    Thanks for dropping by!

  19. Hi Pam! You must be coming up for a breather on your deadline. I hope it’s going well. I’ve got one, too, for the beginning of next week. And wouldn’t you know it, copy edits for another book just arrived. Luckily I think things are under control….

    That’s funny about the stretch! Actually, I have a couple of those and you can’t even tell there’s a bit of spandex with the denim. They feel great, too!

  20. No one quoted “Wrangler Butts, drive me nuts.”
    or Lee jeans (Riders in the discount stores.) Maybe they are just for “Sexy Senior Citizens.”

    Jeans are my favorite attire even at 65.
    Everyone looks good in a well-fitting pair of jeans. I don’t know why they aren’t allowed on a lot of golf courses. I think I am just rambling,

  21. The whole family loves jeans! I have a pair of
    jeans that my brother was about to toss out because they were ripped up. This was in the late ’60s/early
    ’70s. I had a collection of patches from the day,
    which I used to rehabilitate those jeans. Everyone
    loved and wanted them, but there was no way I would
    let those jeans leave my hands! I’m glad I kept them because they are now a momento of Frank, whom
    we lost in 1980.

    Pat Cochran

  22. Hi Sue! I don’t know that quote. Is it a song? And I’ve got a confession to make about Riders…the ones at Walmart fit really well, I love my black ones!

    I totally agree about everyone looking good in a well-fitting pair of jeans!

  23. Hi Pat! What a lovely memory you have of Frank.

    Those patches were really something! I remember you could buy them in fabric stores, and I used to covet them, lol, but never could get my hands on very many.

  24. This is in response to the peace sign mentions above. We’re vacationing with friends and she mentioned this is the 50th anniversary of the peace sign, and it was developed to look like the semaphore signals for N and D, which mean nuclear disarmament.

    Interesting, whether true or urban legend LOL.

    Thanks again, Kate and everybody, for a very informative and lively post.

  25. Tanya, I didn’t know that about the semaphore signals. That’s fascinating! And it makes sense that this is the 50th anniversary — that’s probably why I’ve been seeing such a resurgence in the peace sign in jewelry over the last 6 months. Thanks for posting that!

  26. My man wears wranglers. Has for years. I love jeans that fit well but have a problem with the kids wearing baggy ones that allow their underwear to show! Okay so I am old fashioned.

  27. Oh, Connie, I forgot about those awful-looking things! You’re not old fashioned, they annoy me too. I guess every generation has their annoying way of wearing jeans, LOL. With us I think it was the ripped and shredded cuffs, and the holes in the knees.

  28. My youngest daughter – age 22 now – is a jeans person. She has been a tomboy all her life and lived in jeans. She doesn’t hardly go anywhere she doesn’t wear jeans. College – it’s jeans. She used to work the church nursery – in jeans of course. Our church is a country church and she wore her jeans always to church.
    She could care less what people thought. She has always felt comfortable in her jeans.
    Me on the other hand am so overweight I don’t feel comfortable in them unless they are stretch jeans. My daughter gave me a pair I love.
    My oldest loves jeans – she’s 27. But she likes to dress up too.
    God Bless.

  29. Hi Jane! I can understand your daughters’ love of jeans. I’d wear them everywhere too, if I could. Except I’m not that young and don’t feel I can get away with it so much. So glad you have a pair you can enjoy! 🙂

    Thanks for posting!

  30. I am really going to date myself – when I went to school we not only didn’t have jeans WE HAD TO WEAR SKIRTS AND DRESSES AND NYLONS HELD UP BY GIRDLES. Yeah horrible. I remember when I first started working that pants suits came into being but the top had to reach your fingertips. You can’t get me out of my jeans now a days lol.

  31. Jeanne, LOL on the girdles. Sounds like you’re making up for lost time now with your jeans! And I kinda liked those pant suits. I bet they come back in style!

  32. Kate, I sent one the other day and it disappeared into cyberspace somewhere. Anyway, I loved your article. In my teans Levis were generally perferred by guys, but Lees and Wranglers were okay, too. I went to a boarding school where gals must wear dresses, or very loose slacks. (DUH) I noticed Jeanne’s comment. Yeah, those nylons. I’d forgotten about them. But at home, and about town, we guys did appreciate how you gals looked in jeans. Wow! Now I have daughters 21 and 35 and both look great in them. It’s enough to make dad (me), and grandpa (also me) nervous. Oh, well both have husbands to do the worrying. My wife, a grandma yet, looks as good as the older one in jeans. I’m just as releived she’s a professional woman where Levis or any other jeans aren’t acceptable apparel. LOL Know what, I sill like how a woman who has put some effort into taking care of herself looks in a pair of levis, faded, patched, or new.

  33. Hi Lee! It’s great to get a guy’s take on this subject! And we’re so pleased you guys appreciate the hard work and effort we gals go through in order to look good in our jeans, LOL. Funny how you worry about your daughters–as a mother, I understand! Thanks for posting. (Especially since there were some problems with the cyberspace thing…hope that’s over.)

  34. Don’t know where the “Wrangler Butts” quote came from.

    When I was in country school, we were allowed to wear jeans. When we went to high school we wore skirts or dresses and can-can slips. Bobbie sox and saddle shoes or penny loafers were the footwear.

  35. Hi Sue–if I hear the Wrangler Butts quote, I’ll know I heard it here first. 🙂 I went to a country school, too. A 2-room schoolhouse. Those were fun days! We learned a lot, too.

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