Blog: Jeans from Nimes

Simon Warburton | 24 August 2010

Extraordinarily, it seems Europeans may have been walking around in denim during the seventeenth century.

The origin of the word has several sources according to which historian you believe, but there certainly appears to have been a French wool and silk material known as 'serge de Nimes,' at that time from which it's not hard to extrapolate the word denim.

The fabric made it over to England where it was either made locally or imported, but the name could - there are many uncertainties - have been anglicised to suit the home market.

In a further twist, it seems sailors from Genoa in northern Italy made their own version of trousers from denim.

It's a short hop from there to 'Genoese' and 'jeans.'

From Italy, France and England, the materials crossed the Atlantic where mill owners apparently made a fabric composed of denim and jean, while the plentiful supply of cotton may have helped too.

There's a highly detailed study of denim's origin here, with as many questions as answers.


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