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History of Denim Jeans in the Black Community

Denim fabric originated in 16th century India, and was an indigo-coloured heavy fabric sold to Portuguese sailors to make fabric for sails.  It was also used for clothes mainly worn by the poor.

On May 20, 1873, Levi Strauss & Jacob Davis got their patent on the process of  adding rivets to men's pants, namely their denim jeans.  Since then, these iconic pants have undergone countless styles and coloration changes with the social trends, particularly within the black community, where denim jeans has had a long and significant history.

In the early 19th century, they used to be referred to as 'Negro clothes', as slave owners purchased them for their slaves to wear due to its' durability, and it distinguished them from the clothes worn by the plantation families who wore linen suits and lace parasols. 

In the mid-20th century, during the civil rights activism, Black Americans began to wear poor sharecroppers denim overalls out of practicality, as they were able to withstand the abuse of high pressure fire hoses, and dog attacks.  Denim became the symbol of activism, resistance and the struggle for freedom in the Black community. 

In the 1980s and 1990s, denim became an important part of the fashion and style associated with the hip-hop culture that emerged in the Black community, particularly denim jackets, jeans, and overalls being worn by some of the most influential hip-hop artists of that time. This helped to push the trend and popularize it among young Black people.

These days, denim remains as popular as ever and a lasting part of the Black community's fashion and style and is a staple in the wardrobes of many Black fashion designers, and influencers. It will remain a symbol within the Black community of individuality, resistance and empowerment. 


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