A new event is coming to Reno Tahoe USA! The Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA) announced today the creation of a new special event, to debut on October 2-4, 2015, celebrating the invention of one of the world’s most iconic products – riveted denim “blue jeans”- by Reno tailor Jacob Davis in the early 1870s.
According to RSCVA President and CEO Christopher Baum, “The fact that the world’s favorite item of clothing was invented and patented in Reno by Mr. Davis is unknown to most locals, and many denim fans worldwide… but not for long.”
“Blue Genes Jam®” will be a three-day lifestyle festival featuring numerous fun and unique activities around Reno, Sparks and North Lake Tahoe, including: rock and country music concerts; “Jeaneology,” scholarly presentations on the history of blue jeans and their impact on popular culture; the “Jean Pool,” a retail marketplace for vintage jeans, designer denim and accessories; “Jean Therapy,” special discounts at area health spas; the “Blue Jean Ball,” a banquet and silent auction benefitting the Nevada Humane Society; “Jacob’s Joint,” a pop-up bar and restaurant; “Pop(corn) Culture,” a mini-festival of milestone films in the history of blue jeans, such as James Dean’s “Rebel Without a Cause”; and denim fashion shows by international jean manufacturing companies, both large and small.
The concept for Blue Genes Jam® got its start more than a year ago, when Baum received a telephone call in his office from Mr. Robert Wexler of Reno.
According to Baum, “Mr. Wexler had heard me being interviewed on a local radio station and thought I would be interested in a little-known historical fact about our city.”
Wexler shared the story of a tailor named Jacob Davis who had patented his invention of rugged work pants while working at his shop in downtown Reno (on Virginia Street, where the “Knitting Factory” is currently located), and how a group of civic-minded residents (including Mella Harmon, then of the Nevada Historical Society, and former state archivist Guy Roche) worked with the Reno Historical Resources Commission to place a commemorative plaque at the site in May 2006.
Said Baum, “I thanked him for the fascinating information, and promised to get back in touch if I ever found a way to use it to benefit the future growth of tourism in Northern Nevada.”
In the months that followed, Baum would take a few minutes here and there to scour the Internet and bookstores for more details about Jacob Davis and his invention. He learned that the inspiration for Davis’ breakthrough idea occurred when a woman entered his tailor shop in January 1871 complaining that her husband’s work pants kept ripping, due to the rough demands of his job. Davis sewed a new pair of cotton
duck cloth pants for the man and, spying some hardware he normally used for horse blanket straps, added copper rivets to all of the key stress points. The copper riveted pants were a huge success, and soon he was swamped with hundreds of orders, at the premium price of $3.00 a pair. Demand grew further when he started offering the pants in tough, indigo blue denim fabric. Sensing that he had a bona fide hit on his hands, Davis reached out to his fabric supplier – Levi Strauss & Company of San Francisco – to see if they might be interested in helping him pay the $68.00 required to fund the patent application process. On August 9, 1872, “Jacob W. Davis, assignor to himself, and Levi Strauss & Company” submitted the patent application, written and signed by Jacob Davis, who was credited as “Inventor” on the accompanying illustration. On May 20, 1873, the United States Patent Office granted Davis and Levi Strauss & Co. Patent No. 139,121, and a multi-billion dollar fashion industry juggernaut was born, continuing to this day in the United States (where the average American owns a staggering seven pairs of blue jeans!) and virtually everywhere else around the globe.
Jacob Davis spent the rest of his life overseeing the manufacture of his invention for Levi Strauss & Co., selling his interest in the patent and manufacturing rights in 1907. His occupation in the San Francisco City Directory was listed as “manufacturer” in 1874, but by 1903, it had been changed to “capitalist.” He died in 1908 at the age of 77.
Once Baum had formed the basic concept for the Blue Genes Jam® (he dreamed up the name and RSCVA Special Projects Coordinator Ken Koser contributed the “genes” for “jeans” twist), he turned the project over to the entire RSCVA Marketing Department, which will work with local partners – such as concert venues and resort hotels, as well as those facilities owned and/or managed by the RSCVA – over the next 12 months to book the talent, attract the jeans companies and otherwise coordinate the creation of a brand new special event for the region.
“The RSCVA doesn’t normally produce our own events,” said Baum. “But in this case, I am confident in my team’s ability to take a great idea and turn it into a fantastic asset for the region, attracting denim fans from around the country – and around the world – to Northern Nevada.”
According to Baum, “The story of blue jeans started right here in Reno with Jacob Davis, and Levi Strauss & Co. helped make his product into a worldwide work wear and – eventually – fashion staple. But other manufacturers – from Wrangler and Lee to Lucky, Ralph Lauren, Cinch, Ben Davis, and many others – and boutique selvedge/raw denim companies – like the eponymous Jacob Davis, Mister Freedom, Roy Denim, Rogue Territory, imogene + willie, Left Field NYC, and Raleigh Denim Workshop, to name just a few – keep the momentum going today. We look forward to welcoming them all to “The Birthplace of Blue Jeans” on the first weekend of October, in 2015 and every year after, because as those of us fortunate to live and work in Reno Tahoe USA now like to brag, “We have copper rivets in our genes.”
To keep up-to-date on details of the Annual Blue Genes Jam®, please go to the event website, www.BlueGenesJam.com.