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"Jeans of the sort we would recognize today - close fitting working trousers made of hard wearing, typically blue cloth - emerged in America in the mid-19th century. But their antecedents have to be sought in a far distant place. The first known reference to trousers called jeans actually comes from mid-19th century England: 'Septimus arrived flourishin his cambric, with his white jeans strapped under his chammy leather opera boot,' R S Surtees, 'Handley Cross' 1843. Why the name jeans? Because they were made of jean, a sort of tough twilled cotton cloth. This was short for jean fustian, a term first introduced into English in the mid-16th century, in which the jean represented a modification of Janne, the Old French name of the Italian city of Genoa. So jean fustian was 'cotton fabric from Genoa,' so named because that was where it was first made."
~ John Ayto, "Dictionary of Word Origins."