Levis Vintage: The Story

in Jean


The Levi’s brand name is recognized and coveted throughout the world. The Levi Strauss Company having been formed in the mid 1800’s by Levi Strauss who brought the vision, business experience and funds and Jacob Davis, a tailor who developed the use of the ‘rivet’ to reinforce certain areas of the jeans, primarily the pocket corners and seams. Mr. Strauss left New York headed for San Francisco during the California Gold Rush era in pursuit if an opportunity. His initial venture was the opening of a dry goods store in the San Francisco area. As he became familiar with the needs of the local miners, in particular was the problem of their pants wearing out and ripping easily, he saw realized another opportunity as did Mr. Davis who repaired the jeans for the miners.

The familiar two horse leather patch on the rear pocket and the red tab were used as visual identifiers of the brand. The original jeans were constructed of canvas and then soon thereafter switched to denim, a twilled cotton cloth. As demand increased, lot numbers were assigned for inventory control purposes and that is where the legendary style numbering comes from.

Levis Vintage refers to the Levi Brand of jeans that are at least 25 to 30 years old putting them in pre-1980’s or so. There are several identifying characteristics of what would be considered vintage levi jeans. Because the corner pockets seemed to be the most susceptible to ripping, a technique called ‘ bar tacking’ was used. Due to the nature of the denim, it entailed sewing the corners with extra thread to strengthen them.

During the 1930’s and 40’s, the WW II years, the jeans stopped being made with rivets on the watch pockets. The watch pockets of this period were in the 3.5 to 4 inches in width while in the later years the pocket size was reduced.

Another area to look at is the rivets, if they have raised letters and are made of a thing metal they may be of pre 1980 vintage.

Red label Levis derives their name from the red tag on the back pocket. If the lettering in the word “LEVI” is all capitalized, referred to as the “Big E”, then the jeans are pre 1971 if the letter “e” is lower case then they are post 1971. If the red label is missing the jeans were manufactured prior to 1936.

Unfortunately in today’s world, forgeries, fakes and knock-offs are prevalent and handed off as the real thing to many unsuspecting consumers. A few tell tale design features of “real” levi’s will assure the buyer that in fact they have the real thing.

Stitching is one are to examine. Look for even stitches along the seams, make sure it is not loose, separated or uneven and that the thread used is of a thick nature. The rear pocket stitching pattern should point down. Again if this pattern is uneven, missing or loose and sloppy chances are they are a knock-off jean.

On Vintage Levi’s the style number was stamped on the backside of the button, if this is missing or looks shoddy, the jeans maybe a fake.

We know the Levi Strauss Company to be recognized around the world and according to the latest company profile it is still privately owned by the Levi Strauss decedents. Mr Strauss was certainly a visionary and as the prevalence of his legacy can attest to, he was able to capitalize on a simple need and convert it into a global success.

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Phil Brickens has 3 articles online

Phil Brickens is a staunch levis adherent and has no other brand in his wardrobe. For more info of Levis vistt Vintage Levis. To read about the Levis Engineered style Engineered.



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Levis Vintage: The Story

This article was published on 2011/09/27