7 tried-and-true facts about Levi's denim
Image: Warner Bros.
Can you imagine a time before you pulled on those trusty 501s? Jeans have become such a staple in American fashion, with countless colors, cuts and styles. They can be dressed up, down and anywhere in between. If blue jeans weren’t invented, what would we even wear on our bottom halves?
This week marks the birthday of Levi Strauss, the founder of Levi’s — the oldest denim company. In his honor, let’s go over some facts you might not know about the iconic company.
The first style was the XX
…Which was later renamed after the lot number, “501.” It’s no surprise that the first pair of Levi’s jeans was a 501. However, it might surprise you that this cut dates back to 1890. Despite the common misconception that Levi’s dates back to the California Gold Rush, denim manufacturing in general didn’t start until the 1870s, so hopeful miners weren’t flocking to California in their trendy jeans in the 1840s.
Strauss didn’t invent denim
Though Strauss filed the first patent for blue jeans, he’s not the inventor of denim. In fact, he was’t even the sole inventor of those blue jeans. A tailor from Reno, Nevada, Jacob Davis, wrote to Strauss in 1872 to suggest riveting blue jeans. The next year, those jeans were made.
It’s changed quite a bit over the years
Buying jeans is frustrating enough as it is, can you imagine if you had to account for the original size, and then how much the jeans would shrink in the wash? This was what the original 501 was like. Though the brand still sells unshrunk jeans, you can also buy this cut and be assured the jeans will stay the same size before and after washing. Other changes this classic cut have sustained include, the original crotch rivet and waist cinch being removed during World War II to conserve metal and staying that way and back pocket rivets being removed in the 1950s because they scratched furniture. Now, Levi’s offers men’s and women’s cuts of the style - and the women’s comes in a “boyfriend,” “skinny,” “taper, and “original” fit.
Levi’s were favored by the rebels
Just about every person from every walk of life wears blue jeans now, but back in the 1950s and 1960s, Levi’s biggest customers were kids in the edgy subcultures. Greasers, mods and hippies were known for rocking denim before it became mainstream. This can partly be attributed to James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause giving the blue jean an edgy vibe.
That leather patch is actually card stock
While the earliest pairs of Levi’s had a leather patch on the back featuring the iconic Two Horse image, the company opted to stop using leather in the late 1950s. Not only was this cheaper, but card stock actually held up in the newly popular washing machine than leather did.
The oldest pair of surviving Levi’s is from 1879
Only two people in the company have the combination to the fire-proof safe they’re kept in. According to Thrillist, they’re estimated to be worth $150,000. The company also shelled out $46,532 for a pair from 1880 that were found in an abandoned mine in Nevada. Makes you wonder what the miner wore out of the mine the day they were left behind, huh?
The iconic red tab dates back to 1936
…and the “E” was capitalized on the tab until 1971.