Cotton and indigo are the first two ingredients that make up Jeans, the third one is the city of Genoa. Not everyone knows that the term “Jeans” derives from a fabric born in Genoa in the 16th century. A moleskin which, from the port city reached London, where it was identified as “Jean” or “Jeanes”, distorting the name of the place of origin.
The extraordinary eclectic setting of the University Library, former prestigious Hotel Colombia, is the venue for “Jeans from origins to the myth”. You can find a narrative space in which historical artefacts, multimedia installations, films and deep didactic studies interact with each other to take visitors on an immersive journey through time. It starts with the historical origin of the Jeans fabric and it documents the evolution to the Blue Jeans legend.
A small but significant historical collection allows us to take a closer look at the oldest known examples of jeans clothing, for the first time together. We can see the eighteenth-century Ligurian crib figurines dressed in tiny, highly detailed reproductions of trousers and jackets in fustian-Jeans, the nineteenth-century Ligurian tradition of women’s Jeans clothing and the collection of engravings kept at the University Library, by Alessio Pittaluga. It shows that Jeans was already being used at the beginning of the nineteenth century for both work and festive clothing.
The transition from Jeans to Blue Jeans is documented by a planetary history identified with routes and trajectories, to be retraced in the multimedia installations and in the rich apparatus of unpublished videos and documentaries. Among these ones there are precious newsreels from the Archive of “Istituto Luce – Cinecittà” that tell the story of jeans from the 1950s onwards.
And so begins the history of jeans as a social phenomenon: a fabric or clothing to which people attributes different and often antithetical meanings in every era. Blue jeans are unconventional or fashionable, orthodox or provocative. From the beginning of the legend, conventionally linked to Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis, to female emancipation. From Giuseppe Garibaldi’s fustian-Jeans trousers to the fragments of Blue-Jeans used in the works of artist Ian Berry. From Jeans in rock music to the clothing of Hollywood stars. And we cannot forget how Jeans are: blue trousers, comfortable, sturdy and cheap, originated as work clothes and used by sailors and soldiers, miners, pioneers and cowboys.