Apologies for the awful jean/gene pun, but it serves a purpose. As someone who would profess to having an interest in denim, I wanted to write a blog about my newest pair of jeans, a pair of Levi’s Vintage 1947 501’s. When you consider the wide variety and scope of denim currently on the market, buying a pair of Levi’s seems like an odd choice. This is especially true when you factor in how far the brand has fallen from its heyday. The main reason to for buying a pair of Levi’s is the brand’s lineage. It’s an awfully trite thing to say, but there really is history in these jeans.
Levi’s weren’t the only jeans to exist way back when. Many other smaller brands existsed but, along with Wrangler and Lee, Levi’s are the OGs of denim. Without a doubt they have the richest history and the greatest pull of any brand currently pushing jeans. The oldest pair in existence dates back to 1878. They were found in a mine by a guy called Mike Harris, who also happens to have written a book called Jeans Of The Old West. There’s a really good interview with him the latest issue of Inventory as well. In a nut shell, Levi’s have been kicking around for ages.
This post is working on the presumption that you know what the 501 is (it’s also presumed that anyone will actually read this, which may well turn to to be false). The 501 is Levi’s signature model. It’s a style that has been mimicked and copied through history. Having gone through slight variations through the years, it’s the 1947 model that could be seen as the definitive article. Following the end of World War II, Levi’s were no longer constrained by rationing or material shortages so were able to return to manufacturing jeans as they had done pre-war. The end of the war coincided allowed a new generation to discover and purchase Levi’s. There’s certainly scope for the claim that this was the turning point for denim, where it went from being functional to being fashionable. When you’re looking at Tunblr’s full of pictures of post-war American, it’s more than likely the kids in the photos will be wearing 501s, and more often that not it’ll be 47’s (or maybe the ’55 cut, but I bought the ’47 so that’s the angle I’m pushing).
Levi’s influence and reach can be summed up by the details in these photos. It doesn’t look like much, but every single detail shown above marks a pair of jeans as a pair of Levi’s. At the turn of the century lawsuits were filed against every single brand that borrowed aspects of these designs, citing infringements of trademarks. No other manufactured is now allowed to use the accurate, a vertical red tab or have a leather patch depicting two animals pulling apart a pair of jeans in the way that Levi’s does. So why were so many brands borrowing so liberally from Levi’s? It’s the same reason that so many Japanese brands base their cuts on vintage Levi’s, the same reason that I bought a pair. It’s the history.
Enter Levi’s Vintage Clothing. LVC is a way of introducing the brand’s history back into its clothing, a way of recalling when it was a big hitter, because, if we’re honest, Levi’s fell off a good while back. The LVC range goes at least some way to recalling the glory days. When you consider how popular the heritage look is right now, it’s no real surprise that they’ve started pushing out vintage inspired clothing. The current season features some Ivy inspired styles and all looks very nice, but it’s the denim that is the real selling point for the brand. The denim is still manufactured at Cone Mills and has a very nice, slightly hairy quality to it. The reproduction cuts are pretty much on point, with each era of the 501xx represented. The denim itself has a nice, slight hairy quality to it and is pretty tough and rugged, but the quality or workmanship doesn’t really meet the high expectations that the retail price would dictate. Which is a polite way of saying these jeans are over priced. They are nice, don’t get me wrong, and I’m very glad to own a decent pair of Levi’s, it’s just that they’re not full retail price nice. Without wanting to get into the “sick fades bro” thing, I am keen to see how they’ll wear in.
For further reading on the lawsuit, try here, here or here. For more jeans chat from people who know what they’re talking about, you could try the very comprehensive Loomstate or the wormhole that is SuperFuture. It’s a good way to kill time at work.