A Short History of Levis

Levis is one of the most popular denim brands in history. Their jeans are immensely popular, dominating the wardrobes of vintage fashion lovers, celebrities and more. How did they come to be so well-known and loved?

The origin of denim jeans was in the mining industry. Workers needed a highly durable garment to last through their intense labour. Having tough clothing meant they were protected from injuries, and could save money due to not having to replace their clothes constantly. It was essential to their line of work. So, in 1852, during the California Gold Rush, Levi Strauss and tailor Jacob Davis crafted the first pair of “manufactured waist overalls” from brass rivets and tough denim, known to us today as jeans!

Up until the 1950s-1980s, jeans remained relegated to labourers like miners and factory workers. However, throughout the years, Levis jeans were adopted by miriad subcultures, and grew beyond their original image. Hippies, mods, rockers, and greasers all began wearing jeans, as the classic “blue jeans” look grew in popularity.

In addition, many popular figures wore Levis, cementing their place in popular culture. Elvis sported the Black Levis Jeans which originated the black wash jeans. Marlon Brando wore the classic Levis 501s in the 1953 film The Wild One. Steve Jobs was famous for constantly wearing 501s with his signature black turtleneck. Even Marilyn Monroe wore Levis in The Misfits!

What was, and still is, so appealing about Levis is their universality. The incredibly popular 501 jean’s silhouette is simple, no nonsense- straight up and down, without regard for fashion trends. The denim is tough, and can last for years. They have remained the same for decades, and will likely remain so for years to come. They transcend time and mainstream culture; they are made to suit a huge range of body types and personal styles. It is their consistency in history that makes them so popular. It could even be said that they create a sense of togetherness; people wore these jeans in the 1890s, and will continue to be worn in the future. Regardless of body type, class, gender or time period, everyone can wear Levis jeans!

So, we can see how Levi Strauss and Co slowly became the mainstream fashion brand that we know today. I will finish on a fun fact – if you look at the label on the back of a pair of Levis, you will see two horses trying to pull apart a pair of jeans! I personally never noticed this until researching this topic, but isn’t it a clever testament to the durability of Levis jeans, both in time and within the fabric?

About the author

Jessica Wilkinson

Jess is a undergraduate student studying English at the University of York. She has a passion for Vintage style, Sustainable Fashion and loves to write. 


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