Levi’s 501s Past, Present and Future
"I think 501 jeans are the most significant and influential piece of clothing in human history,"
So says Jonathan Cheung, Levi’s Senior Vice President of Global Design and he is almost certainly right.
Rock and rebellion
From rock stars to robbers and from movie stars to rockers, Levi's 501s have been the uniform of choice for the outlaw, the rebel, the celebrated and the mainstream. The iconic jeans have been go-to styles for 143 years, albeit with 40 design changes across the decades, and have always been the best sellers in the Levi’s range.
There has never been another single item of clothing that has remained so consistently cool. Perhaps the secret of 501s is their versatility. They suit both men and women and they are worn by young and old alike. They can be dressed up or dressed down to create limitless looks as they are equally at home partnered with the finest silk shirt or grungiest boots. Levi’s 501s are certainly jeans that you can wear your way and every day.
The cultural significance of 501s should never be overlooked. A starring role in the iconic films of the 1950’s, being worn by Bruce Springsteen on the cover of Born in The USA and the admiration of Clint Eastwood certainly ensures that these jeans have a special place in history. The movie stars and models of the 90s such as Winona Ryder and Kate moss adored them too and they remain incredibly current.
Levi’s 501s never really went away but they are now set for a new era of domination. The word is that the popularity of skinny jeans could be about to head further south than many of their low rise waists and sagging behinds. Either that or the great and the good of the fashion world have decided that it is time for shake up. Either way, trend setters are showing signs of returning to basics and with denim that means 501s.
To pay tribute to the extraordinary success story that is 501s, Levi’s have produced a three-part documentary series titled The 501 Jean: Stories of an original. The three parts being “Work”, “Style” and “Rebellion”. The series explores the jeans’ influence on popular culture since 1873 and it is now live on Levi’s site, YouTube and right here at Jean Store!
So what of the future? There is no sign of the 501’s popularity waning and they look set to remain at the top of the tree for many years to come. However, there will be changes as there have been many times before. Levi’s are always looking to the future and have launched a competition which invites fashion students to submit their vision for jeans. To enter, students must design concepts for the jeans in the year 2020. That sounds so futuristic doesn’t it but it is only 4 years away!
The prize is the opportunity to visit the Levi’s archive and to spend the summer working at the company’s creative studios in San Francisco. This will mean spending time with some of the world’s leading denim experts.
Almost 600 students from 105 design schools in 27 different countries entered the competition. A shortlist of eight students has been drawn up and two of them are students at the University of Salford. Let’s hope that Karin Human and Emma Lewin make it all the way to California.