The Levi’s 501 jean is an archetype, the jean that all jeans sprang from. Levi’s Vintage Collection does a fantastic job of producing faithful reproductions of the 501 from the defining moments of its history. From the introduction of belt loops in the 1933 501 to the abandonment of the suspender buttons in 1937, to the painted Arcuate and loss of the chinch on the 1944 to the more modern, recognisable cut of the 1947. Each iteration marks an important step in the development if the 501 and indeed in the history of jeans themselves. The changes reflect the history of the time period, technological changes, fashion, practicality and social status. However, there is one jean in the 501 family that tends to get overlooked and it could be argued that it is the most authentic of all 501s. Namely the humble Red Tab 501 shrink-to-fit jean.
The “incurable collector of Americana,” Patrick Segui of the blog Riveted did a little spring cleaning a couple years back, which led to the discovery of a pair of rare 1955 501 Levi’s jean form the ‘Capital E’ line that ran from 1989 until the launch of Levi’s Vintage Clothing in 1996. At the time (in 2010), he had already been sitting on the jeans for 13 years (!) and back in the 90s he only paid $26.99 for them, which is ridiculous, especially when you consider that they were manufactured at the Valencia Street factory of a 14 oz. hairy American milled denim. Click here to see how the jeans evolved after Patrick has been working in them once a week for 2 year and only washed them twice.
Lynn Downey on the late 30s Levi’s 501 that Michael Williams from A Continuous Lean spotted in Japan recently, ”high end stores in New York did carry our products in the era of the dude ranch. The stores would sew their own labels into our clothes and they were sold to easterners, who then wore them on western dude ranches.”
This is the story of a man with a passion. A passion that almost seems like an addiction when you hear his story. 29-year-old Kasper “Spacey” Weinrich Schübeler is a well-known face on Danish denim scene. He has been collecting for jeans, but it was his time with Levi’s that really gave him plenty of opportunities to spend all his savings on Levi’s jeans. Today receipts and bank statements reveal a staggering amount of more than 100,000 Danish Kroner (some 13,000 euros) spent on jeans; but actually his collection worth way more than that. Because like vintage cars and bordeaux vintage denim only gains value with time.
The Levi’s Best of collection is a tribute to the originals with a commercial twist. This is a pair of the 501 shrink-to-fits from the premium red tab line. The designers have taken all the best features from historic jeans from the Levi’s archives and in many ways these jeans are identical to the top-of-the-line Levi’s Vintage Clothing products. Selvage fabrics (from Japan though, not Cone Mills), chain stitched hems, hidden selvage on the coin pocket, leather patch, punched through copper rivets, zink buttons, V-stitch at the top button, and single stitches on the back pockets. There’s no Big E on the red tab and they’re sewn in Turkey not America.
Which size should I choose? How much will they shrink? What’s the difference between the 1947 and the 1966? And when should I wash? These are just a few of the often unanswered questions frequently asked by customers interested in the dry (shrink-to-fit) jeans from Levi’s Vintage Clothing. But how is a wear & tear project going to make any difference? Helping our readers find the perfect pair of jeans is one of Denimhunters’ main objectives and with the help of five denim heads who’ll each wear in a different fit we will hopefully become able to answer any possible question about the exclusive top-of-the-line denim collection. At least for the 5 fits included in the project.
For vintage lovers, Paris is a fantastic city. I went there myself for the first time in August 2011 and found this treasure. On almost every street you’ll find vintage shops with bountiful selections and cheap prices that will make the hunt a feast. Close to the junction of Rue de Rivoli and Rue Vieille du Temple is a blandly looking second-hand shop that turned out to be a cornucopia of treasures.
Defining a pair of jeans can be quite complicated. They can be skinny or wide, high-waist or low-waist, dark or light, ugly or awesome, cheap piece of no-good or made from a quality that is incomparable. As I wrote in my first post (sorry, only in Danish), it’s you and only you who decide what kind of jeans you’re going to wear. If the history and culture of denim doesn’t mean anything to you I’m guessing you’re not spending hours in all sorts of jean shops. If you just want a comfortable pair of jeans to wear on Sundays when a game is on you’re probably not looking into a pair of 18 oz. raw selvedge jeans. If you’re walking around with tree trunks instead of thighs you’re going to pass right through the skinny jeans section and buy something with room in them, and if you can’t stand a pair of jeans that are made without passion and without a sense of quality and craftsmanship then I’m not counting on seeing you in a pair of Cheap Monday’s.
Meadow in Malmö has four pairs of Levi’s Vintage Clothing 1947 501 jeans are in display, just as a way to show customer which amazing and stunningly beautiful results your can get from wearing in a pair of dry jeans. Even though the jeans will not be competing in the competition, I wanted to show you how ten years of constant wear can make four pairs of jeans just about any denim enthusiast a little envy and fascinated.
This pair of Levi’s Vintage Clothing 1966 501 jeans belong to 19-year-old Oscar Redebrandt from Västerås, Sweden. He has been using the jeans for almost exactly one and a half years now, and they’ve only been washed once, but pretty soon they are going to need another wash. What fascinates Oscar about denim is its history and cultural interaction in today’s society, and how the fit, shape, and manufacturing process has changed over time – and he most certainly knows how to wear in a pair of jeans. Just my kind of guy.