Levi’s 501 Jeans have been around for an impressive 149 years, and they’re also the style that helped propel the brand into a household name. Since the iconic 501 Jeans debut, they’ve become an important part of not only fashion, but cultural history, showcasing that good fashion really can be timeless.
So, what’s so special about Levi’s 501 Jeans? What is it about this specific style of classic denim jeans that have endured the test of time, and spawned a thousand mimics that never hit the mark?
Well, while the 501 Jeans have evolved into different styles across the 501 Original and Icons collections, three elements remain consistent throughout. The 501 Jeans are known for durable rivets that help prevent pockets from tearing, five-button fly and their effortlessly cool — not to mention, always flattering — silhouette. And, with their timeless fits, every 501 style to date have also been considered a blank — though, still stylish — canvas for the wearer to express themselves.
Today, the men’s and women’s Levi’s 501 collections feature all different colours including pink, neutral and the classic medium indigo, and all kinds of styles, including skinny, straight, vintage, cropped and even shorts — along with the original fit, of course.
In today’s world where fast fashion changes weekly, it really is a feat for a style to have remained as popular today as it was when it was first produced. And from a sustainability point of view, the timeless style and shape of a pair of classic 501 Jeans, means that they’ll never go out of style. You’re saving the planet from more waste, and your wallet by investing in a pair of these jeans.
Basically, the Levi’s 501 Jeans are a throwback to the days when things were built to last — and when we weren’t buying new clothes every change of season. Let’s take a quick look back at the evolution of the Levi’s 501 Jeans from their inception.
1950s – 1960s: From Brando to Woodstock
In the 1950s and ‘60s, the Levi’s 501 became the uniform of choice for the teenage rebel. This first started with Hollywood stars like Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe who first wore the denim style in their films and brought them into the pop cultural consciousness. Monroe was one of the first women ever to wear the style, and she wore it for not one, but two films, River of No Returns and The Misfits.
Then, in ‘60s, the style was embraced by those far outside of Hollywood, both physically, in that many lived on the other coast of the US, in New York City, and socio-economically. This crowd included bikers, artists and Beat poets. In a photo of a crowd at Woodstock in 1969, the 501 style can be seen worn again and again.
1970s – 1980s: Streamlined and DIY
Next came the era of perfection through imperfection. The mid-1970s was a time when new music genres like punk and hip hop came into the mainstream, and, for Levi’s 501 Jeans, that meant a move away from the maximalism of flaring, fringe and psychedelic colours and a move towards fitted, washed-out and worn-out styles.
Then, when we hit the ‘80s, we started DIY fashion, tearing up our clothes and personalising them. The 501 Jeans were the blank canvas on which the wearer could customise and let their personality shine through.
1990s: Past Is Prologue
Ah, the ‘90s. While the Levi’s 501 Jeans had cemented their status as an iconic piece of fashion long before then, it was in this era that the now-iconic jeans truly shined. Today, they immediately come to mind when you think of ‘90s fashion.
Everyone from every corner of the cultural landscape embraced the casual cool the denim could lend to any outfit. For many people around the world who owned a pair of 501s, the jeans were their go-to. They were a favourite pair of jeans they could throw on whenever they wanted to feel confident and look good, too. And that continues to be the case for Levi’s 501 Jeans today — just one of the many reasons they’re still around and showing no signs of slowing down in popularity anytime soon.