Capitol Alert

It’s official: Blue jeans are a California state symbol

Workers stack Levi's 501 jeans in San Francisco in 1997. Denim is now the state’s official fabric.
Workers stack Levi's 501 jeans in San Francisco in 1997. Denim is now the state’s official fabric. AP

Next time you pull on a pair of jeans, you won’t just be embracing casual fashion. You’ll also be honoring California.

Denim has officially entered the pantheon of official state symbols, with Gov. Jerry Brown signing legislation declaring the material the California state fabric.

Blue jeans owe their place in California history to one of the state’s original entrepreneurs, Levi Strauss, who cashed in on the economic boom of the Gold Rush by selling dry goods to fortune-seekers. Jeans got an official patent in 1873. Since then, they have become ubiquitous: 96 percent of Americans own some, according to a bill analysis, and people on average own seven pairs.

With Brown’s signature, denim joins a long list of official California symbols that includes the state fish (the golden trout), gemstone (benitoite), tree (the California redwood) and soil (San Joaquin soil).

Brown signed the bill without comment, but when it came up on the Assembly floor, Assembly Bill 501 (the bill number is no coincidence) prompted some lighthearted ribbing. One lawmaker joked about opposition from the wool industry. Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-Greenbrae, argued that generations of Californians “share a common gene: the denim jean,” unleashing a cascade of puns.

“I just want to thank the author for this riveting debate,” said Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert

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