One of the TV shows I like to watch is called “The Most.” The program features information about the biggest or the best in a variety of categories–the biggest bridge, the tallest building, the most populous region, and on and on. Each program also features a “great moment” in history, usually involving a dynamic figure that changed the course of history. “The Most” is welcome relief from some of the nonsense coming from network TV.
A few days ago when I was in a large gathering and noticing how people were dressed, I began to wonder who was “the most” as far as fashion statements were concerned. I decided it was not Versace or Armani or Cassini, or even some of the more common names in the fashion business. Based upon what I was observing as I looked around, I concluded that “the most” important fashion event occurred around 1849 when Levi Strauss took a handful of rivets and a piece of canvas and fashioned a sturdy pair of pants that he sold to California’s gold miners. The pants were an instant success and became known as “Levis.”
Over the years Levis morphed into blue jeans and finally into just jeans. They are everywhere–no matter where you travel, jeans are the dominant garb of today. And you can buy them for $15 to $1,700 or more per pair.
This was a great example of how a seemingly insignificant moment in history can, over time, have an impact upon society. I haven’t decided yet whether the proliferation of Levis or jeans in all areas of public gatherings is a blessing or a curse. But whatever it is, Levi Strauss has made his mark like no other fashion designer.
Our own business has also had its share of great moments. The creation of the first insurance company in America in the 1700s and the emergence of the mutual companies in the 1840s were all pivotal moments in the creation of the business we are engaged in today.
An early contributor to the progress of our business was Elizur Wright, whose work in developing policy non-forfeiture benefits and legal reserves made possible today’s cash value products. Prior to these developments, the premium covered only the term for which protection against risk was offered.