10 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Levi’s

Things You Didnt Know About Levis

The history of Levi’s stretches way back to 1873 and a lot has happened in that time, these are the ten highlights as picked by Levi’s.

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Take a look in your closet, no matter where you live, chances are you have a pair of blue jeans in there. You may not know that these jeans – the ones you wear everywhere, from your job to your favourite club – originated with two European-born men living in the rough-and-tumble world of the 19th century American West.

When Levi Strauss partnered with tailor Jacob Davis in 1873 on a patent for riveted pockets on work pants for Western pioneers, they couldn’t have dreamed of its impact on modern culture. The Levi’s 501 button fly jean – the original and first-ever blue jean – was born on May 20, 1873. And 141 years later, it has become a timeless classic that is as relevant to popular culture and style as ever before.

Here are some things you might not know about Levi’s:

1. It was German-born businessman Levi Strauss and Latvian-born tailor Jacob Davis who created the first pair of blue jeans in San Francisco, California.

These jeans had copper rivets at the points of strain and the duo received the US patent for them on May 20th, 1873. They had one back pocket, the arcuate stitching design, a watch pocket, a cinch and brace buttons.

Levi Strauss & Co

2. The original pair of blue jeans, Levi’s 501 jeans, were actually called ‘waist overalls’, or even just ‘overalls’, when they were first created.

This was traditionally the name for men’s workwear and they have been mainstay in the fashion industry for the last 141 years.

Levi Strauss & Co Overalls

3. The patent expired in 1890 but something else happened that year: the birth of the legendary lot number 501.

From 1873 until 1890, the original jean was known simply as ‘XX’ – an industry term meaning the highest quality. But what did the number ‘501’ mean? One explanation is that because the patent expired in 1890, this meant that LS&CO. would no longer be the exclusive manufacturer of riveted clothing. By giving products 3-digit identifying numbers, the company could make sure customers were ordering the riveted clothing made by Levi Strauss & Co. and not one of the new rivals.

Levi's Vintage Clothing

Its image shows two horses trying in vain to pull apart a pair of the riveted 501 jeans and illustrates the strength of the original blue jean. It might have also been a useful tool for consumers who couldn’t read English. Need a pair of those famous riveted jeans? Just look for the two horses!

Levi Strauss & Co Leather Patch

5. The Red Tab was first placed onto the right back pocket of the jeans in 1936.

As a way to identify Levi’s from their competition. During the Second World War, even more changes came along – but instead of updates due to fashion, wartime rationing called the shots. Raw materials like metal, fabric and threads were needed for everything and all clothing manufacturers had to adhere to the new government rationing rules. In the case of Levi’s jeans, the rivets on the watch pocket, crotch and cinch went away and the famous Arcuate design was painted onto the back pockets because the US government said it was a decorative. As the company didn’t want to lose its famous trademark, paint was used as a temporary measure as it was better than no Arcuate stitching at all!

Levi's Red Tab Ad

6. Levi’s may have invented the blue jean, but they’re also the creators of the denim jacket.

The earliest denim jacket can date back to the late 1880s and was originally referred to as the Blouse, but the style and fit that we know and love today came into existence in 1962. The brands much loved Trucker Jacket was nicknamed by vintage denim collectors after the truck drivers who were the first to wear it with attitude and it has since become the go-to item and favourite layering piece in everyone’s wardrobe.

Levi's Trucker Jacket

7. Levi’s have been worn by presidents, movie stars, rock stars, fashion icons, artists and pioneers in technology.

In the 1950s, teenage rebellion was championed by screen icon Marlon Brando after he was seen wearing Levi’s 501 jeans in the film ’The Wild One’. Fashion Designer Yves Saint Laurent famously said, “I wish I had invented blue jeans. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity – all I hope for in my clothes”. Fast-forward to the 1990s and Levi’s jeans became synonymous with Kurt Cobain and the grunge movement. More recently the likes of Andrew Garfield, Ryan Gosling, Noel Gallagher, Damon Albarn and The Vaccines are all often spotted in their favourite Levi’s.

Kurt Cobain In Levi's

8. Levi’s 501 jeans are the most worn, well-known and replicated jeans in the world.

In 1999, Time magazine named the 501 jeans the Fashion Item of the Century and in 2013 Levi’s celebrated the 140th anniversary of its 501 jeans by introducing the first ever coloured, non-denim 501s, available in red, green, beige and blue.

Levi's 140th Anniversary 501

9. Levi’s launched a product line especially for cyclists called Levi’s Commuter in 2011.

One of the first of its kind on the market. Designed by cyclists for cyclists, the collection combines denim and modular styles that are functional, innovative, smart, and all in keeping with Levi’s® commitment to quality and utility in style. Levi’s Commuter uses innovative fabric blends, serving the rider with improved breathability and water repellency: designed for shifts in weather and body temperature.

Levi's Commuter Collection

10. Levi’s launched a brand new advertising campaign, called Live in Levi’s.

Based on the idea that you live both lives day-to-day and most memorable moments wearing your Levi’s – from first dates and first-borns to rodeos and road trips and every day in between – the campaign saw the brand return to television in September 2014. Follow the conversation at #LiveInLevis.

Live In Levi's

Words: Richard Hurren VP Levi’s Northern Europe

Images: Levi’s