Levis 501s. The holy grail when it comes to vintage denim. Nothing else comes close (except maybe a pair of Lee Riders). And when you find a pair that fits like a glove you know it’s going to be a love affair that will last a lifetime.
All classics were born out of utility and the 501s are no different. It all began in California in 1873 when a Bavarian dry goods salesman named Levi Strauss joined forces with a tailor named Jacob Davis. Together they created trousers for gold miners that were designed to withstand the wear and tear of the harsh working conditions. The two men were granted a patent to put rivets on these trousers at a point of strain. The 501 began it’s life serving miners, farmers, labourers, ranchers, factory and construction workers. As American industry evolved so did the 501.
The Western films of the 1930s meant all of America wanted a piece of the highly romanticised cowboy lifestyle and for the first time people were wearing 501s for their look, not just for function.
In 1934 the first ladies’ jeans were produced and a year later they made an appearance in Vogue magazine.
By the 1950s Hollywood stars had elevated this humble utilitarian garment to a newfound glamorous status. The 501 became a fashion icon. Young farm workers turned rockers wore their 501s onstage. This juvenile delinquent style led to Levi’s being banned in many schools in America.
In 1960 Levi’s officially adopted the term ‘jeans’, the slang used by teenagers and Levi’s became a Rock n’ Roll go to. It was and still is the garment of the outlaw – the rock & roller, the biker, the punk rocker. In the 60s intellectuals and artists adopted the 501s too. Crowds wore them through decades of activist movements – from beats to hippies to the fall of the Berlin wall. They have been embraced by almost every sub-culture. No garment symbolised the act of rebellion more than a pair of 501s.
Their construction make them incredibly durable and it’s safe to say they will only get better with age. Paint marks, stains, rips, frays, fading – all of this adds to their appeal. The straight leg and mid-rise creates a silhouette that flatters most shapes. The 501 is a classic that transcends fads in fashion and will live in your wardrobe forever.