When I bought my first pair of Levi’s, I said ‘these are jeans I can be buried in’

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When I bought my first pair of Levi’s, I said ‘these are jeans I can be buried in’


Hell, they’re jeans that might outlive me.

It might sound morbid, but in a world of fast fashion and quick-fizzle trends, it’s pretty remarkable to find clothing that feels like it’ll stay with you for years.

When people say, “they don’t make it like they used to”, they’re never talking about Levi’s. 2023 marks the 150th anniversary of these denim icons. From the first patent in 1873 as simple workwear through the years of innovations to improve quality and durability, this unparallelled apparel is engineered to last. It’s synonymous with quality – the kind you can hand down, or find decades later in charity shops and Etsy stores. Stylish, but more than just appearances, Levi’s bridges the gap between romance and practicality, country life and city slicking, moving seamlessly between. They don’t grow old. They just grow vintage.

Timeless. Peerless. Denim for the ages. 

For the 150th anniversary, Levi’s are honouring the 501® jeans that made them famous, pulling out sartorial blasts from the past to release as Limited Edition items throughout the year. Even though they’ve come a long way since the 19th century (for starters, losing the suspenders), they still have a through-line of endurance and hard-wearing quality. You might not be rounding up cattle, but damn it when you pull on a pair of Levi’s you sure feel like you could. Even if it’s your first rodeo.

Levi’s is a wearable legacy, style icons born from a simple need for practical workwear. The very first jeans, 501® Originals as they’d come to be known, were never intended for fashion. If you could’ve explained catwalks and photoshoots to Jacob Davis, the man who started it all, he would’ve been nonplussed about where his OG denim and duck canvas trousers with those nifty little copper rivets would someday lead. 

With an ethos that’s the antithesis to disposable fashion and whims, they responded to falling sales in the early 20th century by improving the quality and longevity of the product. They listened to customers. They adapted, and offered a practical innovation: They gave them belt loops. These ‘Loopers’, re-released this year as 1922 “White Oak” 501® Jeans, would be the standard for jeans fashion. 

With business booming again by 1925, they found themselves in cowboy country in the 1930s, firmly associated with both the reality and romance of the Western. John Wayne put the 501® Jeans on the silver screen, and even women were advised by Vogue magazine to grab a pair for their holidays out to the dude ranch. These were still masculine cut jeans, of course. The first pair of 501® Jeans just for women wouldn’t be available until the 80s. Re-released as part of the Levi’s anniversary celebration this year, the 501® ‘81 cut are ‘mum jeans’ style, sitting higher on the waist and with a more tapered leg than the unisex men’s jeans. Cut to flatter and elongate, finally there was a feminine Levi’s form. Everyone could still wear the other jeans, naturally, but now the experience of feminine bodies were considered in the design of style and comfort.

From the 1950s, Levi’s moved from practical clothing into the casualwear space, celebrated this year by the archive release of 501® ‘54 men’s jeans with the classic straight cut. This kicked off the following decades of evolution, where these jeans were adopted by the counter-culture and youth of America and beyond.

Did you know Levi’s used to end up on the Soviet black market? Contraband symbol of fashion and freedom, individual expression has been core to Levi’s since they began to perceive their brand as the fashionable jean trousers of choice for, well, pretty much anyone. From the 70s the reach grew and so did the range. Rock stars wore them shredded, rappers in dark denim, skaters loose, and now Levi’s can run the colour spectrum from daring white down to pitch black skinnies. Shaped and tapered, high, low, fashionably ripped or boyfriend baggy. Levi’s re-release of archival 501® designs even includes a nod to the ubiquitous second-hand-shop Levi’s, with lived-in fabric textures and some craft and patchwork finishes, like buying history brand new. And you know what, those classic cuts haven’t gone out of style. Dad got rid of the killer pair he wore in the 80s? Grab some revamped 1983 501® and show him that good jeans are hereditary, after all. 

No longer the labourer’s uniform, Levi’s has still maintained the quality you’d need for a hard day’s work (whether or not you’re working hard). The same pair of jeans is made to see you from country to city, dirty jobs to play, farm to bar. Coffee date? Levi’s. Holidaywear? Levi’s. Casual destination wedding? Levi’s and a button-up. The versatility of iconic jeans like the 501® ensured the kind of style that lasts a century and a half, and the kind of denim that still turns up in vintage stores after decades of wear, ready for new wardrobes and a new styling spin.

150 years on, we’re celebrating pants with staying power. They’re a legacy you’ll leave behind. You change, they change, fashions change, and yet a classic pair of jeans feels like one constant that actually stays the same. 

Wear your finest Levi’s to my funeral, y’all.

Browse the Levi’s 501 range here.

This article was made in partnership with Levi’s.