Levi’s Levi Strauss

Everyone wears jeans and most of us have worn Levis at some point. However, the man who brought them to the world didn’t invent them, he just exploited their potential brilliantly.

German-born Strauss arrived in San Francisco during the height of the Gold Rush in the 1850s. But while prospectors were roaming the hills in search of a fortune, he set up a trading business on the waterfront dealing in fabrics. The business successfully capitalised on the growing wealth of the city, expanding constantly.

Through his dealings with a tailor named Jacob Davis, Strauss heard about a new garment he had made for the goldminers. They often suffered from torn clothing due to the rigours of their work, so Davis had made trousers out of riveted material which didn’t tear easily. Strauss realised how popular these workers’ overalls were and saw their potential for a mass market. Together, they filed for a patent, which Davis couldn’t afford at the time, and then set about boosting production.

The combination of Davis’ skills and Strauss’ business acumen was a potent mix, and the “cowboys’ tailor” quickly became a household name. By the time of his death in 1902, it is estimated that Strauss was personally worth more than $6m.

But while we have all heard of Levi Strauss, Jacob Davis is an historical footnote. You might consider Strauss to have been an opportunist, but interestingly he passed up the chance to join the other gold prospectors. Instead, he built a stable business in a good market and exploited opportunities as they arose.

What he taught us:

When everyone is facing in one direction, look the other way Use the talents of others for your own means


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