Thursday, 18 September 2014

What Is the Origin of Denim?

Photo by DJ Keino


Noun & adjective. Originally serge denim. Late 17th century.
[serge denim from French serge de Nimes serge of Nimes (a city in southern France).]

A noun. Originally a kind of serge.
Now, a twilled hard-wearing cotton fabric (frequently blue) used for overalls, jeans, etc.
In plural, overalls or jeans made of denim. L17

B adj. Made of denim. E18

Those dastardly Americans! Always claiming they're the best and they're the origin of this, that and everything! Well I'm sick of it, and if you are too, you'll be interested to know that the material denim is not as American as apple pie. In fact, it's French, and is actually a type of serge from Nimes (pronounced neem), and is therefore a serge de Nimes, ergo denim, ergo French, ergo the Yanks are nicking it and claiming it as their own, just like they do with French fries. Still, I don't feel too much sympathy for the French, as they pilfered French fries from Belgium and even claim that champagne is of their own making (when everyone clearly knows it's actually of English origin). Hmm. Come to think of it, the earliest references to apple pie are English too, which means that that isn't American, which means that denim is as American as apple pie (as in, not American at all). Really, America! Other than The Simpsons and dodgy spelling, what have you given us?

Photo by Timothy Marsee
Do please leave your skinniest comments in the box below.


  1. Denim was shipped to America from Nimes because they needed a tough hard wearing fabric for their slaves working on the French sugar and cotton plantations. France owned most of the West and South at the time. There's still a few reminders left over, like Louisiana ( after King Louis ), New Orleans etc. The French nearly ruled the World!!!

    1. And as for American contributions to mankind other than the Simpsons, dodgy spelling, and obesity, the only thing I can think of is jazz.

    2. McDonalds, of course, though you might be lumping that in with obesity.

      An interesting thing I read about denim - apparently it changed the way we sit as, when more fragile fabrics were used, one simply couldn't plonk one's bum onto the floor, even in the most informal of circumstances. With the advent of denim, however, one could sit how one wanted without fear of putting an unsightly tear in one's pantaloons.

  2. Replies
    1. This was all new to me too, Teresa. It was fun to research.

  3. I think that it is cool to find out the origin of the word. However, I believe denim jeans were popularized in America. Before that, they were just used in the fields. These days, they are actually fashionable.