Levi Strauss: A Clothing Success

By Samuel Phineas Upham

Levi Strauss was a German-born clothing maker who found success selling heavy-duty pants made for work. Today, we would call them jeans and wear them to a club. People of yesteryear used them in factories and on farms. Fashion has certainly changed over time.

Levi’s began operating in 1872 thanks to a customer of Strauss’s. Jacob Davis had purchased fabric from Strauss and used it to develop durable pants for himself. He reinforced the pockets and seams with metal rivets, a feature still present today, which helped to reduce the amount of wear and tear the jeans would potentially face over time. Davis was asking Strauss for money to help pay the patent fee he’d need to produce the pants.

Strauss and Davis formed a partnership, mostly because Strauss correctly believed that these durable clothes would be in great demand. He called them “waist overalls,” and he sold them to clothing stores and individuals. His first creations were made with a heavy canvas material, but the company soon switched to using denim, which was more comfortable.

The blue color we have come to associate with jeans is actually a practical change. The blue dye helped to cover up stains and hide the signs of a hard day’s work.

Strauss’s work made him a millionaire, but his beginnings were humble. It’s reported that his first pairs of pants were made by seamstresses working out of their homes until Strauss was able to get the capital ready to purchase a factory for proper work. He also expanded his business through the acquisition of wool mills, which helped to secure supply for the materials to continue producing jeans well into the future.


Samuel Phineas Uphamis an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Samual Phineas Upham website or Linkedin page.

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