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By Fortune
September 18, 2014

This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

By Robert Hackett

From workaday outerwear to the laps of multi-billionaires, blue jeans have withstood the wear and tear of time as an American icon.

Originally called overalls (even without the straps), the pants evolved from a practical solution to protect the laboring limbs of workers to a style suiting just about every demographic. The garment has fit the thighs of miners, farmhands, cowboys, rebels, hippies, rockers, hip-hop artists, fashionistas and businesspeople alike. Even Apple founder Steve Jobs adopted them, along with a black mock turtleneck, as his signature look.

Heck, you’ve probably worn a pair, too.

So how did a humble Gold Rush-era innovation in trousers come to define a nation? Fortune spoke with Levi Strauss historian and archivist Tracey Panek about the evolution of the attire. With her help and some research of our own, here’s a selection of the most important moments in denim history.

For the rest of the story, please go to Fortune.com.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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