Over the years, denim has grown from being a reliable workwear material into everyone’s wardrobe staple, with Levi’s® being one of the most reputable brands - that has been in the industry for over a century. Although not everyone is familiar with the brand, how it has evolved and why it remains one of the favourite denim brands on the market, surely part of the overwhelming success story has to be down to clever marketing.
Levi Strauss was born Loeb Strauss in Bavaria, Germany. It was only when he left for the United States to cash in on the Gold Rush that he became Levi Strauss, after which he decided to start his own company. So, Levi’s® could have been called Loeb’s!
Strauss originally sold dry goods to San Francisco’s population. He founded Levi Strauss & Co. in 1853 and started to specialise in men’s clothing. It was in 1872, after a partnership was forged with Jacob Davis, that the first Levi jeans were produced.
Strauss first patented the blue jeans when he and Davis created riveted clothing made from duck canvas. Strauss or Davis did not invent denim though; the word comes from ‘de Nimes’, which in French means ‘from Nimes’ – a town in France that created the sturdy fabric.
The first pair of jeans weren’t called jeans; they were called ‘waist overalls’ and they were originally designed for workers in heavy labour. The overalls featured a single back pocket and a cinch on the waist, an arcuate and a rivet on the crotch.
Levi jeans have their signature arcuate - a world-known stitched-on logo on the back pocket. XX symbols are also written on the patch - this means ‘extra strong’ or ‘double extra heavy’. The two horses pulling at one pair of jeans on the patch signifies the strength of the rivets.
To this day, no one knows what the logo means – as all company records were lost when the Levi’s® building caught fire in the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.
Though created in 1873, it was not until 1890 that the 501® jeans took their name - the number 501 refers to the lot number where they were produced.
501® jeans also had crotch rivets, symbolising that they were worn by real cowboys way back in the day. The crotch rivet was removed from the 501® in 1941, as it caused discomfort - heating up when near fire.
While Levi’s® is predominantly known for its denim ware, the company also produced Khakis from 1905 - as workwear for hard labour.
The following years led Levi’s® to develop its line of denim clothing and in 1922, the company started producing jeans with belt loops. Later in 1934, they created women’s jeans – since women had to wear their ‘boyfriend’s jeans’ prior to the birth of the female line.
In 1936, Levi’s® created a sign which identified their product – the eye-catching red tag that was placed on the back pocket of every pair of jeans. Since then, Levi’s® has broadened their consumer base and redefined the use of jeans. From being a garment designed and created for miners, carpenters and men on the docks, jeans became a trend for models and artists – and later, common wear for people of all ages and from all walks of life.
Understanding the importance of articulate merchandising, Levi’s® entrusted their shop fittings and fixtures to KAS Shopfittings. For more information about our products, please call 01793 54230.