Levi's 501

The Levi’s 501’s first came into being during the American gold rush in 1873, following a collaboration between Levi Strauss, a cloth merchant on the West Coast of America and Jacob Davis, a tailor in Nevada, who was selling denim canvas tents before he had the idea to transform them into work pants. Characterized by copper rivets, reinforced pockets and button flies, these were the world’s first blue jeans made for working men and other gold miners.

jeans leather labels

Before the 1980s, The 501 jeans were simply called the XX, named after the factory that produced them. The name 501 comes from the material used to make the very first model.

vintage jeans

The oldest model of Levi’s jeans in the world is the Calico: a 501 original. Dating back to the 1900s, they were discovered in 1940 in a former mine in Calico, a ghost town in the Mojave desert in Southern California. Later renamed the Calico, these jeans remain today to be one of the rarest pieces in existence.

Levi's 501

The red tab, the famous label on the back of the 501 was added in the 1930s to distinguish Levi’s jeans from their competitors. It is one of the signatures of the jean alongside the button fly, the copper rivets and the leather label sewn at the waist

Levi's 501 women

After the Second World War popularized the jeans, in October 1947, the 501 jeans were revealed for the first time during a special fashion show in Paris. It was identical twins Eva and Priscilla Emery who wore the women’s model, named for the 701 jeans, which were a more feminine fit of the classic 501 model.

women's denim

In the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe was one of the first women to wear the 501 jeans in a film, River of No Return and also in her last film “The Misfits”.

denim ad campaigns

The 501s appeared in Vogue for the first time in 1949. In November 2012, Stephanie Seymour, Daria Werbowy and Lauren Hutton posed, all wearing the 501 jeans on the cover of Vogue Paris.

Photo: Stephanie Seymour, Daria Werbowy and Lauren Hutton photographed by Inez & Vinoodh on the cover of the November 2012 issue of Vogue Paris

You can buy Levi’s jeans here, and the premium re-edited and crafted Made and Crafted Levi’s jeans here. You can also buy great vintage Levi’s jeans at Urban Outfitters and at ASOS.

{credit: VOGUE Paris}