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An Arizona cowboy., Digital ID 1610053, New York Public LibraryThe California Gold Rush of 1848, among other things, created significant changes to occupational dress for men. When enterprising supplier Levi Strauss brought heavy duty canvas cloth for tents to miners, he heard their complaints about the need for durable work pants. The birth of denim fabric and its subsequent usage was a major step in the evolution of sturdy men’s wear.  

The western movement to wide open spaces continued anew after the Civil War. The U.S. Army now moved into high gear in pursuing war against the Plains tribes that still refused to settle in designated reservations. Settlers moved west more freely once these hazards were removed. Gradually, the takeover of American lifeways would affect American Indian dress, and former warriors donned the denim and canvas trousers and thick cotton shirts of their white neighbors.

The Sioux chief., Digital ID 1610051, New York Public Library

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