There’s a lot to unpack about jeans. It might not be a starting point that’ll win you friends at a party, but from the seemingly useless tiny pockets to those random metal studs, it’s just a smorgasbord of confusing features in an otherwise simple wardrobe staple. Science has even proven that women’s jeans pockets are a lie, finding that they’re consistently smaller to the point almost half of them are unable to store everyday items.
To help us wade through the sea of navy-threaded mysteries, original jeans brand Levi's did an explainer on “rivets”, the official name for those little buttony studs that seem randomly dotted about the pockets. They might seem superfluous to the uninitiated, but rivets were actually so crucial to the work pants’ design that Levi Strauss and Jacob Davies obtained a patent for their application.
Davies was a tailor and one day, when he was tasked with designing a pair of jeans that wouldn’t fall apart, tiny, button-like inspiration struck. To prevent jeans from tearing in common places like the pocket and zip, Davies theorized that stamping in metal rivets could help reinforce the fabric at these pressure points and keep the jeans together even during rigorous movement.
The rivets soared like the very flies they were made to protect, and as his design became a hit Davies knew he needed to secure a patent with a business partner. Having purchased the cloth from Levi Strauss, he was an obvious choice and so the two went in on a patent together.
And so it was, with patent #139,121 from the US Patent and Trademark Office on May 20, 1873, the jeans pocket stud was born. According to Levi’s, this day now marks the birthday of blue jeans as workwear trousers didn’t really become known as jeans until they got the riveted stamp of approval.
So, they might look useless to you, but there’s a lot of trouser history packed into those tiny metal studs.
And in case you don’t believe in the staying power of rivets, just check out this 165-year-old pair of Levi’s that went for $114,000 at auction.