We can probably thank James Dean for bringing blue jeans to the masses.  He made them cool in the movie Rebel Without a Cause, and in the 50s wearing jeans became a symbol of youth rebellion.

During the 1960s the wearing of jeans became more acceptable, and by the 1970s everyone had on a pair of blue jeans.

Most of us wear jeans daily, but do you know what those little metal things on them are?

James Dean
Getty Images

The Origin of the Rivets

The original purpose of jeans was to create durable workwear for miners and cowboys, but they became popular among young people in the 1950s and 60s as a symbol of rebellion and counterculture.

Jacob Davis, an American tailor, introduced the riveting of trousers by hammering disks onto metal studs that pierced the fabric. Levi's jeans adopted the style in 1873, and the customers got used to seeing the metal studs poking through the jeans.

But why do we have them?

Operations At The Detroit Denim Co. Ahead Of Business Inventories Data
Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Purpose of the Rivets

Blue-collar guys in the 1870s would wear jeans on the job, but they found that the corners of pockets would quickly wear and tear. Davis introduced the rivets to make these sections more robust, by hammering them into the spots where people found their jeans tearing most, particularly the corners of the pockets and the base of the zipper.

Inside The Dearborn Denim Manufacturing Facility As Wholesale Inventories Rose
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Jeans Today Still Have Rivets

Wear and tear due to hard labor is less common these days, but it would still seem strange to see a pair without them.

They have evolved to become decorative, but they were originally intended to strengthen vulnerable areas and prevent tears and are now used mostly for torture when you grab them out of the dryer too quickly.

And in recent years, sustainable fashion designers have experimented with upcycling vintage jeans and repurposing their metal hardware to create unique accessories and jewelry.

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