All Credit and information goes to Dean Hashimoto. Please Check out his original instagram post for more information and photos!
In the realm of fashion archaeology, a remarkable discovery has unfolded in the heart of Virginia. Dating back to the 1850s, denim trousers found in the attic of a late-1700s farmhouse in Roanoke County are now believed to be the oldest known blue jeans in the world. This finding sheds light on the rich history of denim, unraveling details that showcase the evolution of this iconic fabric.
Roanoke County, nestled in a farming region specializing in tobacco and cotton cultivation, provided an ideal environment for the preservation of these denim treasures. The characteristics of the trousers, including the absence of back pockets and a watch pocket, along with the use of a left-hand 2:1 twill weave, offer valuable insights into denim craftsmanship before the 1870s.
The denim trousers exhibit features characteristic of the 1830s to the early 1870s, such as V-shaped front pockets and the absence of a buckleback cinch and yoke. The presence of eight original wood buttons, a hallmark of Southern clothing from this era, further emphasizes the authenticity of this extraordinary find.
The meticulous examination of the trousers reveals a unique blend of machine and hand stitching. Crude machine stitching, marked by irregular stitches and knots, coexists with extensive hand stitching, including overcast stitching of raw fabric edges for added strength. The absence of visible selvedge adds to the mystery, emphasizing the trousers’ handcrafted nature.
One of the standout features of these denim trousers is the back center seam, consisting of three stitching lines. An inside linen covering, hand-stitched into place, adds a layer of intricacy and durability. The split back, connected by hand-sewn extensions of the waistband, hints at a possible precursor to the buckleback cinch, a later development in denim design.
Regional nuances emerge through the trousers’ wider waistband and the slight flair at the leg bottoms, created by meticulous hand stitching of the cuffs. This leg flaring, reminiscent of an 1853 illustration by artist Lewis Miller depicting dancing slaves in Virginia, suggests a regional denim style that has been preserved through the ages.
A significant revelation lies in the contrast between the 1850s denim trousers and Civil War denim pants. The high waistline, high rise, and baggy seat of the former, resembling 1840s pants made of indigo slave cloth, stand in stark contrast to the lower waist and smaller seat room found in Civil War trousers.
The discovery of these 1850s denim trousers from Virginia not only redefines our understanding of denim’s history but also opens a window into the regional styles and craftsmanship of a bygone era. With its unique features, intricate stitching, and regional influences, this pair of denim jeans stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of a fabric that has transcended generations and continues to shape the world of fashion today. As of now, the denim trousers are in the possession of Dean Hashimoto, who has provided this detailed information as a valuable source.