Genoa and jeans: the port’s fabric which conquered America

From "Genes" to jeans. The famous fabric of the Genoa's port workers
Jeans from Genoa
Illustration by Constanza Rojas

Once upon a time there was “denim”, a solid cotton textile. It proved strong and adaptable, thanks to its twill weaving, which produces its diagonal ribbing. It seems that the name derives from the French city called Nimes, where it was woven. Since the 15th century it had competed with fustian, produced in the village of Chieri, province of Turin, which was transported to Genoa in order to be exported or used for producing sail bags or tarpaulins. According to some sources, this type of yarn was the first to be used for manufacturing work trousers, the predecessors of “blue jeans”. On the contrary, other sources claim that the origin was that of the check Ligurian cotton textile called bordatto or vergatino.

The fact remains that, as told by this “tale”, in the late 19th century an anonymous Genoese merchant decided to ship these blue – indigo – textiles and use them in order to produce overalls and, above all, baggy trousers with solid, large pockets, which were very much required by gold diggers. Impressed by the success of these trousers, two very clever weavers, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davies, not only began producing the textile from “Genes” (from which Jeans) but also patented it in 1874.

Adriana Morando

Translated by Daniele Canepa

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