Where did the baby name Brittania come from?

Brittania advertisement

In 1979 and 1980, four very similar names — Brittania, Brittanya, Britania and Britanya — all popped up in the U.S. baby name data:

BrittaniaBrittanyaBritaniaBritanya
198313 baby girls...
198213 baby girls6 baby girls..
198135 baby girls 7 baby girls9 baby girls10 baby girls
198060 baby girls [peak]19 baby girls [debut]13 baby girls [debut]16 baby girls [debut]
19795 baby girls [debut]...
1978....
1977....

What put them there?

A marketing campaign for Brittania blue jeans.

Sportswear brand Brittania (pronounced brih-TAN-yah) was launched in Seattle in 1973 by businessman Walter Schoenfeld.

He was inspired to start selling “washed” blue jeans to Americans after spotting “a pair of faded blue denim slacks in the window of a London shop.” (Brittania jeans were “fashionable alternatives to the dark denim Levi’s that were so prevalent at that time.”)

Sales of Britannia jeans increased throughout the 1970s:

In less than 10 years, Brittania Sportswear was selling 30 million pairs a year and Brittania — Schoenfeld spelled it that way to distinguish his brand from the Royal Yacht Britannia — had a team of 40 to 50 designers and about 400 employees in Seattle.

Then, in 1980, Schoenfeld made a “decision which ran against his better judgment: Brittania embarked on the first full-scale advertising campaign in its history.”

Brittania advertisement, 1981
“My home is Texas but I live in Brittania!”

That year, the company spent about $9 million on advertising. The result was the “My home is __ but I live in Brittania” marketing campaign.

The campaign was very successful; brand recognition increased from 48% in 1978 to 96% in 1980.

But it also created a new problem: too much demand for the product. By the spring of 1980, the company “had a 50 percent increase in orders over the previous year, but lacked production capacity to fill them.”

This situation, along with several other issues, led the company to file for bankruptcy protection in 1983. Several years after that, it was purchased by Levi Strauss.

Brittania advertisement

Brittania may not be around anymore, but, as the very first designer jeans company in the U.S., it paved the way for brands like Jordache, Murjani, and Chardon.

It also helped kick the baby name Brittany into high gear circa 1980:

popularity graph for the baby name Brittany
  • 1983: 4,377 baby girls named Brittany [64th]
  • 1982: 3,102 baby girls named Brittany [94th]
  • 1981: 1,714 baby girls named Brittany [165th]
  • 1980: 1,406 baby girls named Brittany [190th]
  • 1979: 792 baby girls named Brittany [300th]
  • 1978: 630 baby girls named Brittany [345th]
  • 1977: 488 baby girls named Brittany [419th]

What are your thoughts on the baby name Brittania? (Do you like it more or less than Brittany?)

P.S. Did you know that Seattle’s apparel industry was born in the wake of the Klondike gold rush? Many prospectors bought provisions in Seattle before heading north to Alaska. Apparel companies founded in Seattle include Filson (1897), Nordstrom (1901), and Eddie Bauer (1920).

Sources:

2 thoughts on “Where did the baby name Brittania come from?

  1. I have a pair or two of these in my closet, for “when I get skinny again” lololol
    I have a bunch of 80s clothes that I swear, if nothing else, I’ll be buried with them! Kinda like a Shield maiden with her weapons and food and such lol
    My acid washed jeans didn’t survive, whatever they used, after a few dozen washes they began to get holes. I have one pair that’s all patches, and only about a square inch and the seams are original material.
    Question, did a name ever come from the Levi’s ads? it was like an alien reptile samurai monster that said in the ad, Lee-V-EYE-za. I had thought that would be a cool name (when I was like 12 or 13 lol) https://youtu.be/j9xKrh0go6Q

  2. How funny you had those thoughts back then! It’s like you were already keyed into words that might make good character names.

    You know, the name “Levis” did return to the data in the 1980s. My guess is that the “e” and “i” are short Levis (as in Dennis), but maybe those Levi’s ads (and the alien reptile samurai monster!) still played a part in drawing attention to the name — or at least the letter sequence.

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