As the manufacturers of the iconic 501 jeans, Levi's are world leaders when it comes to the denim market. Read on for the complete history of the American brand.
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When it comes to denim, Levi's are an iconic US brand that has over one hundred and fifty years of manufacturing experience. From their epochal 501 jeans which once held the title of 'best-selling item of clothing in the world' to their more recent contemporary styles; the staying power of the heritage brand is impressive. But where did it all start?
Read on for the complete history of Levi's.
The History of Levi's
1853 - 1950
In 1853 with hopes of harnessing the spending power created by the gold rush, Levi Strauss set up business in San Francisco selling wholesale dry goods under the name Levi Strauss & Co. Around 20 years after opening , a local tailor, Jacob Davis, had the idea of using copper rivets to strengthen the points of strain on jeans - a popular item among San Francisco's mining community
Davis brought his idea to Strauss with the idea of going into business together, and by 1873 they'd received their patent and had started working together; the patented copper rivets were then incorporated into their designs and advertisements. Although Strauss was in San Francisco through the height of the gold rush, he only began the manufacture of denim overalls in the 1870s, by the 1890s they were also manufacturing Levi 501 jeans - which soon became the best-selling item of clothing in the world.
1950 - 1990
By the 1950s, Levi's popularity among youth subcultures such as mods, rockers and hippies were rising. Alongside this, the prevailing taste for casuals or the 'blue jeans craze' saw large growth in the popularity of the brand's clothing. Alongside the expansion of the company's range of apparel to meet demand, the acquisition of 'Great Western Garment Co.' saw the introduction of the 'stone washing' technique. From a team of fifteen in 1946, the business had rapidly grown to over 22,000 by the late seventies.
As the company continued to expand, not one unionized employee was employed by the company as they had a very strong stance on human and worker's rights instigating a 'pay for performance' system from the sewing machine operators up.
1990 - Present
As Levi's began to feel the repercussions from the success of other brands and cheaper eastern manufacturers, they counteracted this by closing their US manufacturing bases and increasing offshore subcontracting agreements. As of 2016, most of Levi's jeans are made outside the US, with only a few higher end styles still being made in the country.
While Levi was recouping their losses with the factory closures and offshore manufacturing initiatives, stories of poor working conditions in their offshore locations were gaining traction. Alongside this, a group of workers from one of Levi's closed US factories had formed an activist group and picketed Levi's headquarters in San Francisco, alongside staging sit-ins and hunger strikes - creating an abundance of negative press around the brand.
In 2003, Levi's closed it's last US factory in San Antonio - this ended one hundred and fifty years of their jeans being made in the USA; It was measures such as this that saw Levi's return to profitability in 2007 after nearly 10 years of losses. As Levi's continues to be widely known as one of the biggest denim brands in the world, 2013 saw them purchase the naming rights to the San Francisco 49ers new stadium for the sum of $220.3million.
Levi's is now a globally acclaimed brand that few would omit from a list of the most iconic denim manufacturers in the world. Their continued popularity of iconic styles, as well as the addition of new and trendy pieces, has maintained the brand's relevance to the modern day.
Get The Look: Levi's
Check out some simple, timeless looks using some of Levi's key pieces which you can pick up over on the Idle Man store!
Double Dark Denim: Pair some dark denim jeans with a similarly coloured denim shirt, white t-shirt and some dessert boots for a casual, yet suitably smart look.
Denim Casuals: Mixing some darker denim jeans with a white t-shirt and some white trainers is one of the oldest styling mixes in the book. Throw in a denim jacket to keep off the chill in the evenings.
Grey on Denim: Pairing a long sleeve grey t-shirt with a pair of dark indigo wash Levi jeans is the ultimate everyday man's uniform. Casual enough to hang out with friends, but smart enough that you're not looking sloppy should you bump into that special someone - perfect.
Your Quick Guide to The History of Levi's
- In 1853, with hopes of harnessing the spending power created by the gold rush, Levi Strauss set up business in San Francisco.
- The iconic Levi 501 jeans were already being made by the 1890's.
- From a team of fifteen in 1946, the business had rapidly grown to over 22,000 by the late seventies.
- In 2003, Levi's closed it's last US factory in San Antonio - this ended one hundred and fifty years of their jeans being made in the USA.
- As of 2016, most of Levi's jeans are made outside the US, with only a few higher end styles still being made in the country.
That's your lot! When a brand manages to maintain it's status for over 150 years, you know they're onto something good. It's the careful, calculated moves by management along their timeline that have allowed Levi's to maintain their prominence in the denim market and further afield. Follow the link below to check our Levi's collection!