Not surprisingly, one of the most interesting things I saw in Tokyo was an old pair of jeans from Levi’s at Pueblo. I’ve seen similar jeans like this before, but not specifically anything co-labeled like these 501s were. Judging from the detailing seen here, these jeans were made specifically for Brooks Brothers anywhere from 1937 to 1942. Pueblo’s owner and resident vintage hunter, Eiji Asakawa told me that before he found these specific jeans he has never seen another pair like them. I’m not a Levi’s vintage expert (though, full disclosure, we do work with Levi’s on several projects) I too have never seen or heard of jeans like these, which is pretty amazing thing to happen in San Francisco or Tokyo.
Interestingly, Brooks Brothers has been selling a pair of co-labeled USA-Made Levi’s 501 jeans recently. It makes sense when you think about, both iconic brands being pretty famous for their respective products, but it is also surprising to actually see a pair from 70 years ago. I’m not sure what a pair of 501s sold for in the 1930s, but I’m guessing it was less than what you can buy these for at Pueblo. Eiji wouldn’t (or couldn’t) offer up an exact price, but I did get him to admit that you would need at least $3000 to take these home. Seems like a lot of a pair of blue jeans that you couldn’t wear, but to a collector or lover of these two iconic American brands it’s probably a steal.
UPDATE: I spoke via email with the Levi’s Historian Lynn Downey about these jeans after some questions were raised about their authenticity. Below are her comments.
“Well, I think we did a recent collaboration with Brooks Brothers, but we didn’t do one with them in 1937. However, high end stores in New York did carry our products in the era of the dude ranch. I have examples from Best & Co. in New York and Bullock’s Wilshire in Los Angeles. The stores would sew their own labels into our clothes and they were sold to easterners, who then wore them on western dude ranches. I can’t confirm this is a vintage BB label (I don’t know their design history), and this isn’t a “collaboration.” It’s a store carrying our products for a very specific audience.
UPDATE: I asked Lynn if she thinks it is odd that these jeans are in such good shape, but missing the patch. Below is her response:
“Well, not really. Sometimes people took the patches off, because in the 1930s it was tacky to wear a brand name on your clothes. I see this a lot with the women’s jeans in the 1930s.
By the way, I’m pretty sure that is an authentic pair from 1937, but it’s a bit impossible with just photos. It doesn’t look like LVC or a fake to me, though. If I could see a close-up of the rivet, and check to make sure there is no number on the back of the button, I could be more sure. But I don’t agree with one of the comments that it’s a Thai fake. Those guys only fake 1960s pairs from what I’ve seen.”