Here at Number Six, we’re big on appreciating proper, authentic history. And it doesn’t get much better than Levi’s for design heritage. It’s been 145 years, and they’re still going strong. Sunday 20th May marks the anniversary of the patent being granted to Levi Strauss to produce a pair of jeans that would eventually become a cultural phenomenon. Levi’s 501s are known for being the original American blue jean: born out of necessity for miners during the gold rush in the mid 19th Century.
“A simple idea for a simple product”
First designed as extremely durable workwear, the 501s had a seriously humble beginning. They were the first to use a button fly, and one of the original users of American-made selvedge denim. It began with a simple idea for a simple product: miners needed durable clothing that could withstand the demands of their work. A Bavarian dry goods salesman named Levi Strauss came up with the idea of placing metal rivets on trousers at points of strain. He was soon granted a patent, and a license to produce these heavyweight trousers for the rest of his life.
“Flaws that defined the 501 jean”
In 1915, Cone Denim promised Levi’s that they would guarantee the production of their 501 jeans forever. It was settled with a now-famous Golden Handshake at their White Oak Mill in North Carolina. This was still the case, until 31st December 2017, when the factory produced its final yard of denim, following rapidly decreasing demands for the coveted fabric. The Cone Denim White Oak Mill used the original cherry tree wooden floors that were first built over 100 years ago to their advantage. The floor played a key role in producing the denim: the bounce from the running loom created intentional imperfections in the fabric as it was woven. It’s this distinct denim with its subtle flaws that truly defined the 501 jean. In their own words: “there’s character in each yard of fabric”.
“Processes will stand the test of time if you do things properly”
Their traditional production methods were more than just an interesting anecdote, it’s become the foundation for an entire culture that surrounds the 501s. The Cone Denim White Oak Mill was the last remaining selvedge denim factory in America, and it represented the legendary American work ethic that helped to build Levi’s up to what they are now. It’s proof that processes will stand the test of time if you do things properly, and as the industry is evolving, so are the 501s.
There’s no denying, it takes an exceptional design to transcend time and stay in production for 145 years. Just like all classics, Levi’s 501 Jeans were born out of utility, and the form followed the function. Denim represents how a person works, lives, and plays. It shows where they’ve been, and how they wear them. It’s true what they say, they really do get better the more you wear them. You can track Levi’s 501 jeans right across history for almost 150 years, and there’s always a pair which will represent any given time period (just as any decent design piece should).
“At the forefront of functional clothing”
Levi’s reckon their 501s are the ultimate canvas as they’ve been reinvented thousands of times over the last few decades. It’s all in the creativity of the wearer, but what Levi’s have done so well is to create the ultimate base for unique expression. Since 1873, Levi’s 501 Jeans have been at the forefront of functional clothing, and the world has taken them to new cultural heights. 501 Day is about the millions of collaborations that have happened since the beginning. Levi’s have provided a platform for people to make something out of nothing, and that’s exactly what 501 Day is celebrating.
“Celebrating originality, creativity, and history”
From miners wrapping old jeans around pipes, to bikers with oil burns on the ankles of their 501s, right up to someone purchasing their first shrink-to-fit pair off the rails. Levi’s are celebrating the originality, the creativity, and the authentic history that’s made them the most well-known jeans in the world.
This Sunday, why not drop by the store? We’re doing something special…