27 May

From Workwear to Timeless Classic: 145 Years of The Levi’s 501

Remember the days jeans weren’t invented yet? Nope, neither do we. Jeans have been a part of our wardrobe since 1873 when Levi’s came up with a blue jeans called waist overalls.  Although the original model was meant as workwear, we’ve all adopted the basic blue jeans with five pockets and Arcuate stitching. And yet, the history of pants, originally designed for construction workers or lumberjacks, is less basic than the pants itself.

The most famous jeans company in the world, Levi’s, goes back to 1853 when the German Levi Strauss moved to San Francisco to open his own business in clothing and blankets. Together with Jacob Davis he invented the waist overalls in 1873. Little did he know the model would become the most timeless piece of clothing in history. Originally with one back pocket and made of 9 oz. XX blue denim, the pants got the nickname The XX.

Levi’s patches and belt loops

Our grandparents and parents used to walk around (or still do) in the same pants as we do these days. Going through your dad’s closet, everyone will come across a jeans with a brown patch on the back. That patch, which was later copied by many big retailers, was first used on the Levi’s 501 in 1886. The iconic patch with two red horses on it, later became a trademark for the pants. With the changes in the fashion world, the brand added belt loops to the overalls in 1922. Although they still keep the suspender buttons alive and kicking.

Finally, in 1936, the red Tab was first placed on the right back pocket. The red Tab differentiated the company from others who made their own dark jeans and the same stitching technique. After World War II, Levi’s started selling their jeans on the East side of the United States and introduced a zipper version of the overalls.

From overalls to success

It’s not Levi’s who decided to change their 501 Overalls to the 501 Jeans. Teenagers started to call the overalls “jeans” in the 1950s, and the company adopted the name in the sixties. A year later, Levi’s introduced the pre-shrunk jeans and five years later the first TV commercial aired. In 1981, the first pair of 501 for women launched and the success of the brand didn’t end there. These days the 501 still is the most sold item in the Levi’s collection and Levi’s keeps customizing the 501 in sight of trends these days. Patchwork, stretch, a ripped look and a customize option for the 501 Day collection are just a few of the reworked 501’s Levi’s made the past couple of years.

The future of jeans

Back in the eighties, oversized jeans were a thing. The nineties were all about the jeans-on-jeans look, the nillies gave us bootcut and low-waist jeans (remember all the tramp stamps being shown off) and the tenies, if that’s a thing, blessed us with skinny jeans. Of course Levi’s adopted these trends and gave us the 711, 715 and 720. But through all these years the 501 survived the storm of fashion shifts and jeans tendencies, and keeps being the MVP of the jeans world.

Photo credit: Levi’s, Twiggy Moli


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