The riveting story of how Levi's jeans invented the denim category
Since their invention by Levi Strauss & Co. in 1873, Levi's jeans have become the most recognizable and imitated clothing in the world - capturing the imagination and loyalty of people for generations. Today, the Levi's brand is available in more than 110 countries, allowing individuals around the world to express their personal style.
With roots as a utilitarian garment for coal miners, it was the cowboy films of the 1930s that made everybody want their own pair of Levi's, and for the first-time jeans were worn for their look, rather than function, and became a symbol for countercultures and was sewn into the fabric of America.
Worn by everyone from James Dean and Marlon Brando to Jack Kerouac and Jackson Pollock, Levi's jeans became the emblem of youth and a symbol of rebellion.
From presidents to movie stars, farmers to fashion icons, entrepreneurs to the everyman, the cultural significance of Levi's jeans has been defined by the people who wear them and celebrated by some of fashion's most notable authorities.
A historical look at the 501 Jean's impact on culture
1873 The birthday of the blue jean. Levi Strauss and Nevada tailor Jacob Davis partnered in 1873 on a patent to make the first riveted pockets on pants for working western pioneers by using copper rivets at the points of strain. This became the first iteration of the 501 jean, then called XX. On May 20, 1873, the original patent for using rivets on men's pants was granted, and an America icon was born.
1890 Lot numbers were first used to differentiate the various products made by the Levi's brand. The 501 jean, as it is now called, was officially named when the number was assigned to the now world famous "copper riveted waist overalls".
1922 Belt loops were introduced on Levi's jeans for the first time, in response to consumer demands and changes in men's fashion.
1943 The famous Arcuate Stitching Design, which has graced the back pockets on the 501 jean since its debut, was registered as a trademark in 1943. It is iconic in its own right, as one of the oldest clothing trademarks still in use today.
1950s Worn by everyone from James Dean and Marlon Brando to Jack Kerouac and Jackson Pollock, Levi's became the emblem of youth and a symbol of rebellion. Emerging in Hollywood, style icons begin to embrace 501 jeans after Marilyn Monroe is seen wearing them in the hit film River of No Return.
1964 So significant is Levi's cultural impact that in 1964 a pair of 501s entered the Permanent Collections of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
1960s & 70s Millions of pairs of 501 jeans continue to be worn by the young pioneers who are writing history, their ubiquitous presence is seen throughout the peace movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
1980s Steve Jobs adopts his signature look of a black turtleneck, Levi's 501 jeans and gray New Balance sneakers.
1989 Pioneers continue to wear the 501 jean during the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
1990s Worn throughout the Grunge Movement, Levi's jeans continue to remain at the forefront of change across generations, becoming a staple in Kurt Cobain's wardrobe and those of other legendary rock stars.
2000 Time Magazine names the 501 jean the "fashion item of the 20th century," beating out the miniskirt and the little black dress.
2009 President Barack Obama wears Levi's 501 jeans to throw out the first pitch at the 2009 All Star Baseball Game
2015 The Levi's Brand introduced the new 501 CT (Customized & Tapered) jean, adding a custom taper to the original and crafting the perfect fit for a modern take on the classic 501 jean.
Today Levi's jeans are still the first choice of modern pioneers: the artists, musicians, fashion icons, athletes, entrepreneurs, activists, and even presidents who all consider the 501 jean their original.