The Immortality Of Levi’s
It is estimated that on any given day, over 50% of people are in jeans (SAL Public Lecture/Global Denim Project). When looking at it from an objective perspective, denim is one of the most consistent items of clothing that we can see used in almost every culture and race for the better part of the last hundred years or so. To understand how denim has stayed at the forefront of the fashion realm for so long, we must first understand its history as well as how things go in and out of style.
As time progresses and society develops, so too does our taste and sense of fashion evolve and change. A common item of clothing will go through what is called the “Fashion Cycle,” a 5 step process that follows the life of a trend. It begins with an item being introduced into the market. The item then starts rising in popularity through media attention and sales, reaching a peak, after which it begins to decline and go out of fashion entirely. This leaves the item rarely worn and selling for cheap. While most items have been known to go in and out of style often and have very short lives, sometimes lasting less than a month, Levi’s have been able to not only survive but completely dominate the market for over one hundred fifty years.
Through genius advertising using both American history and the western movie boom of the 1930s, Levi’s were able to go from the work pants that they started as when they were first patented and aimed at miners to comfort pants and a fashion symbol worn on ranches and in the comfort of one’s day-to-day life. By being created with indigo-dyed cotton, not only were the jeans extremely resilient, but they also aged with style, leaving wear marks where the stained indigo would wash away, revealing the undyed inner threads of the cotton material. Today, these marks are often pre-added to jeans and used as a fashion statement in and of themselves.
The versatility of denim fabric, as well as the variability of fashion styles made available through using them, have made jeans and other denim garbs (jackets, shorts, shirts, etc.) successful, with Levi’s 501s at the forefront. Levi’s 501s have been considered the best selling item of clothing in all of history (SAL Public Lecture).
Looking at Levi’s today, we see the same attractive features that made them so popular every decade for the last century and a half, such as the affordability, the style, the sturdy material, and the brand name that everyone recognizes. Levi’s 501s have successfully dodged the fashion cycle, which so many companies strive to overcome. Even now, through Covid-19 and the fashion advances that society has made, by bringing back old looks, Levi’s has been able to stay one step ahead of everything, with their historical precedent and their never-ending expanse into fashion advancements. It’s hard to say whether or not Levi’s will continue to be an icon in common streetwear, but if their history and advanced marketing strategies have anything to say about it, then we should likely expect to see Levi’s in circulation far into the future.