How To Date A Vintage Levi’s Denim Jacket

For a while I’ve been hunting for at nice vintage Levi’s denim jacket. With so many second hand clothing shops and all other charity and recycling initiatives and our denim history in the Netherlands where I live it shouldn’t be that hard. So, well prepared with knowledge of ‘how to recognise vintage Levi’s’, I made a list of several potential shops within a 25 kilometre range of my home that I could visit. Here’s what I found.

First stop was two thrift stores where they have a lot of household appliances and furniture next to a pile of used clothes. It was well sorted and divided into men’s and women’s, but none of it was of most value to a denim hunter. Perhaps the owners of specialised vintage stores like Zipper had shopped before me? Fact was that in the more conceptual stores I found some interesting 501’s and other nice vintage pieces like leather jackets, shirts and all kinds of accessories. However, if you are looking for a real bargain most of the time you’re on the wrong spot because they know the value of vintage Levi’s and you are going to pay for it.

So, at my next stop I had more luck. Within the range of denim jackets I found a masterpiece; a Levi’s jacket in my size. According to the information I have, I presume that this jacket is from somewhere in the late 1960s to early 1970s. So what characteristics* made me think that this jacket is that old? Below is my guidelines for how to recognise and date a vintage Levi’s denim jacket.

The jacket I found has:

  • 2 chest pockets
  • Small e tab on the chest pocket
  • No lower hand pockets
  • Orange stitching
  • Single row stitching adjacent to the buttonhole
  • Label 70500 04

Lower hand pockets: Yes (mid ’80 – till present)
The first important and easy way to determine the difference in the period is looking if the jacket has two lower hand pockets. If they are there then it’s from the mid 1980 till present. In this period, Levi’s has produced a lot of colors and stonewashes. The jackets have four pockets and a small e tab.

Lower hand pockets: No (’71 – mid ’80)
If your jacket doesn’t feature the lower hand pocket but still has the the small e red tab it’s dating from ’71 till mid ’80s. To define the right period, there is subtle difference of the stitching adjacent to the bottom buttonhole.

Double row stitching: Yes  (’71 – mid ’80)
If your jacket has a double row stitching adjacent to the buttonhole and only two chest pockets, then it’s from the same period ‘71 till mid ’80s.

Single row stitching: No (mid ’60 – ’71)
If you found a jacket, like I did, with a single row stitching, no lowers hand pockets an a small e red tab on the chest pocket, then your jacket is from the period mid ’60 – ’71. For a difference between the two stitches have a look at the pictures.

The Big ‘E’ Third Edition (Type III) (’50s – ’71)
Finding a jacket with the Big E red tab, then you’re in luck. We’re talking about the period of the late ’50s – ’71. These jackets also have only two chest pockets and these are know as the Third Edition or Type III series. Some of them are blanket lined. You can read more about the Type III here.

The Second Edition (Type II) (’40s – late ’50s)
Except for the Big E you can identify a Second Edition (Type II) by its vertical pleats on the front side adjacent the buttons. The 2 chest pockets are exterior and has straight pocket flap instead of a pointed one on more recent models. Really a favorite model, but hard to find in vintage stores.

The First Edition (Type I) (before ’40s)
The First Edition or Type I with the lot number 506XX has a single brest, left side pocket. Like the Type II, this model also has a pleated front. The early version didn’t have a pocket flap, which was added onto later models. As with the early Levi’s jeans from that era, a cinch back was used on the lower back. The red tab appeared from the 1936 models. Read more about this model here.

By Jan Den Hartogh.

*NOTE: If you have more specific information of how to date this jacket, please share it with us in the comments below. We realise that we are actually stating that the small e red tab was introduced to the Type III jacket before 1971. You also may want to have a closer look at our sources: Midwest Vintage and Infobarrel.