As you probably know, Levi Strauss and Co. are the beginning and the end of blue jeans, the alpha and the omega. The history of jeans, and blue jeans especially, coincides directly with Levi Strauss history.
Levi Strauss was born in 1829 in Bavaria and later immigrated to New York in 1846. In New York, Levi and his brothers ran a dry goods store which began to teach him the trade. Seven years later, news of the Gold Rush in San Francisco has made its way to New York, promising those from far off that San Francisco was the place to “make it big” with opportunities of mining gold. While Levi did make the trek out West during the Gold Rush, he didn’t relocate to mine gold. Instead, he and his knowledge of running the dry goods store found San Francisco to be a great place to set up shop, and soon enough, the Levi Strauss and Co. was born into existence, renaming the NY dry goods store he and his brothers owned.
A customer of the Levi Strauss and Co., Jacob Davis, a tailor from Nevada, sent Levi a letter which contained a detailed look into the way Jacob constructed pants - using new methods and materials which would create an all-around, stronger, longer lasting pair of pants. Impressed with the idea, Levi partnered with Jacob Davis to patent the rivet-centric, construct of pants Davis had been making in Nevada. Shortly after, Levis blue jeans came into existence to later change the world in bigger ways than expected.
While the history of the blue jean does start at this joining of the two forces of Strauss and Davis, the history of jeans truly begins on May 20th of 1873, when the very first pair of Levi Strauss jeans were made in San Francisco, CA. The Levi’s brand received a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 1873, protecting the Levi’s design and rivet construction. The use of denim in these pants created what we know today as the classic blue jean. The Levi brand of jean introduced an unheard of quality of construction and durability with what was being made at the time, and many flocked towards the Levi jean because of this.
Over the next 20-30 years, as the Levi Strauss brand lost patent over using rivets, added the “two horse” patch on their blue jeans, and the possible introduction of lot number jeans which we come to know and love today, like the 501. Shortly before the 1906 earthquake, where the Levis brand lost their records and inventory, Loeb “Levi” Strauss died in 1902, leaving his nephews to take over the blue jean company.
Between the early 1900’s and 1940, belt loops were added to Levi blue jeans, in addition to the introduction of a felled inseam. In 1927, Cone Mills denim became the one and only denim supplier for Levi blue jeans, enhancing the durability and quality even more, setting the stage for how denim would be made for years to come. At this time, the famous Levis 501 fit was introduced as well.
Over the next 50 years, until today, many alterations were made to the Levi jean - the red tab, the LEVIs logo, different fits and offerings and so on. As the times changed, so did the quality and specifications of the Levi blue jean. With a huge market, Levi Strauss branched into serving the larger market with different offerings like Levis shirts, jackets, and more. Desiring the old construction and rich history, LS&Co purchased a pair of vintage Levis dated 1890, in 1997. Today, the desire for vintage blue jeans, like the Levis 501, is very high. This demand for vintage jeans, while blurred with trend and fashion, stems (in one way) from the desire of the old quality and construction of the original Levi jeans. Desiring that very construction and quality, Feel Good sells vintage jeans from brands like Levis, Wrangler, Lee, and more.