It was 144 years ago when Levi Strauss and Nevada tailor Jacob Davis partnered in 1873 for the first riveted pockets on men’s pants. The number 501 was assigned to the world-renowned “copper riveted waist overalls” as lot numbers were then used to classify products made by the duo.
Seventy years later, in 1943, the classic Arcuate design on the back pockets of the 501 jeans was registered a trademark and remains to be the oldest one still in use today. In 1964, a 501 pair entered the Permanent Collections of Smithsonian Institution.
From artists to athletes, and from activists to heads of state, men and women who wrote history embraced the iconic blue jean, including 1950s Hollywood icons James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Marilyn Monroe.
Apple founder Steve Jobs first sported his signature look of black turtleneck and Levi’s 501 jeans in the 1980s, while former US President Barack Obama wore the iconic denim to throw out the first pitch at the All Star Baseball Game in 2009.
In 2000, Time Magazine named the 501 jean as the “fashion item of the 20th century,” edging out the miniskirt and the little black dress.
Like any timeless classic that endures the changing times, Levi’s 501 jean has kept up with the evolving styles of young pioneers. It is a mix of both vintage and current, as it continues to reinvent itself to be more relevant in the modern age.
“Whether you wear the 501, Skinny, CT, Stretch or even cut-offs, your jeans are a marriage between a tried-and-true classic and a modern twist. The 501 is the sweet spot that honors the legacy and heritage of the past while responding to the energy of today—and that is where the magic is,” Levi’s chief product officer Karyn Hillman stated.
“I could give you a hundred reasons why I think the 501 is the best piece of clothing design in human history, from a pure form-meets-function standpoint to its unparalleled cultural history, but you know what? It’s the bum. The backside. The rear end. The 501 bum is the all-time best,” added Jonathan Cheung, Levi’s head of Global Design.
In celebration of its 144th year in the market, Levi’s has launched a celebration collection featuring limited edition jeans, shorts and vests. The brand also released its fifth and latest episode of the 501 Documentary Series, “The 501 Jean: Stories of an Original, Music,” which explored its relationship with music history.