Denim | A Continuous Lean.

Levi’s and the World’s Most Iconic Denim Mill

Sep 15th, 2015 | Categories: Denim | by Michael Williams

Levis 1915 Collection

In 1915, Levi Strauss & Co. approached Greensboro, North Carolina’s Cone Mills about taking over as the main supplier of denim to the then 62 year old maker of riveted workwear. An agreement came together quickly and Cone gained the exclusive rights to manufacture Levi’s proprietary Shrink-to-Fit denim for the production of all Levi’s Lot 501 Jeans. This watershed moment in American denim history became known as “The Golden Handshake” and is a gentleman’s agreement that remains in place to this day.

To honor this historic century-long partnership between these two iconic American companies, Levi’s is releasing a special Levi’s Vintage Clothing collection made exclusively of Shrink-to-Fit denim made at Cone’s historic White Oak plant. We took a trip to Cone to see the process of making denim first hand and to get a better sense of exactly what makes The Golden Handshake so special.

The Levis Shrink-to-Fit denim continues to be produced at the Cone Mills’ White Oak plant in Greensboro, North Carolina using decades-old narrow selvedge looms. Thinking about how fickle business can be, it goes without saying that this longstanding partnership between Cone Mills and Levi Strauss & Co. is something truly unique. Looking back at the history of the two companies, it makes sense why these two specific companies would come together. When brothers Moses and Ceaser Cone founded the Cone Export & Commission Company in 1891 it was, in a way, similar to what Levi Strauss’s original San Francisco dry goods business had been prior to the invention of the riveted jean. In 1905, Cone established the White Oak mill (it’s named it after a 200-year old White Oak tree that stood near the site in Greensboro) and the company quickly rose to prominence as the foremost maker of denim in the world. During that same time Levi’s has become one of the most iconic American brands of all time, and the 501 undoubtedly the most significant item of apparel ever invented. In Greensboro Cone still makes Shrink-to-Fit 501 denim to the same high standards that it did when production started for Levi’s over a century ago.

After visiting Cone in North Carolina to see Levi’s Shrink-to-Fit denim being made, we chatted with Paul O’Neill, head designer of Levi’s Vintage Clothing at Levi Strauss & Co., about this historic partnership.


The Simple Way to Care for Your Jeans.

Mar 13th, 2015 | Categories: Denim | by Michael Williams

The good people of Mr. Porter came to me a while back and asked if I had any thoughts on the best way to take care of one’s jeans. And as it turns out, I have indeed done some thinking the subject over the years. So we spent some time together coming up with a simple and authoritative video guide that lays out exactly how to ensure your denim always looks its best.

In the early days of ACL (way back in 2008) I wrote a little something to clarify my thoughts on how to best go about washing your jeans. Lately it seems to me that a lot of people have really gone crazy trying to over complicate the process of taking care of your denim. I’ve never been a believer in washing my clothes in the ocean, or doing my laundry in my freezer. I’d rather just find a simple way to make my jeans look nice, smell good and age as perfectly as possible without taking up too much time or energy. Because anyone who likes denim can tell you that there’s something really amazing about taking a pair of raw denim, having it mold to your body and creating something which is completely one of a kind. That’s what makes denim maintenance so impactful. Though it’s not so important you need to rolling around the surf in your special new 14oz White Oaks.

[Mr Porter Denim Guide]

Hitting All the Blue Notes.

Nov 13th, 2014 | Categories: Denim, Jake Gallagher, Menswear | by Jake Gallagher

Steve-Mcqueen-William-Claxton-Photograghs-7 steve-mcqueen-denim

For decades denim shirts were marked by three words: extra long tails. It was Wrangler that led the charge, boasting in ads and on store displays about their elongated shirts. The extra length was designed for Levi’s loving cowboys and blue collar workers who needed a tough shirt that wouldn’t come untucked throughout the day. This was once the prime market for denim shirts, men who would scoff at the idea of ever appearing “fashionable.”


Oh how times have changed. That Americana staple has undergone quite a facelift over the years, and nowadays you can find denim shirts in all shapes and sizes, from cutaway collared dress shirts, to ultra distressed reproductions. Those extra long tails have now become just a small part of the denim shirt tale, so we give you our favorites after the jump. Giddy up.

A Taste of Nashville in Portland | Imogene + Willie

Jan 28th, 2014 | Categories: Denim, Jake Gallagher, Portland Oregon | by Jake Gallagher


Like cornbread, sweet tea, and whiskey, Imogene + Willie is inseparable from their Southern roots. Since they opened the doors to their Nashville, Tennessee shop (which fittingly is located in an old gas station) back in 2009, Imogene + Willie have become really the only name in denim below the Mason Dixon line, which is why I was a bit surprised when I literally stumbled into their newest shop, located not in Austin, or Savannah, or Charlestown, but in Portland, Oregon.

Imogene + Willie’s second shop is situated comfortably between Tanner Goods and Poler Stuff on West Burnside in the Pearl District, which is fast becoming, for lack of a better term, the SoHo of Portland (or at least, as much of a SoHo as a city like Portland can have.) From the moment you walk in, the store transplants you down south, with antique ephemera like faded folk signs, horseshoes, and beat up work boots almost stealing the spotlight from the I+W wares. Additionally, the store gets a dose of the southwest thanks to a hefty helping of indigo jewelry, cacti, and Native Americana.



Levi’s®: The American Uniform for Generations of Pioneers.

Oct 14th, 2013 | Categories: Denim, Sponsored Post | by Michael Williams


When we think of the uniform of the American frontiersman, one brand comes to mind: Levi’s®. The brand’s iconic Trucker jacket, Western shirt, and 501® jeans have been synonymous with the American working man for generations. And just as the people who originally wore these garments helped pioneer America as we know it today, Levi’s® pioneered the American wardrobe by creating clothing sturdy enough to stand up to the toughest jobs. But it’s no longer just cowboys, miners, and farmers wearing Levi’s®. Today’s unknown exists within our ideas and creativity, and Levi’s® is still working to outfit the explorers of this modern frontier.

As we arrive on the cusp of fall, none of these items are more necessary than the Trucker. Originally introduced in 1967, the Trucker is the third generation of Levi’s® denim jackets. The most recognizable of the three, it follows on the heels of the aptly named Type I and Type II.



The Type I, the first iteration of the Levi’s® denim jacket, was created in the 1900s and relied upon a cinched buckle back to provide a better fit for the wearer. Made with raw Cone Mills denim, it was a jacket that men earned the more they wore it. A little over fifty years later, the Type II improved upon this style by adding two patch pockets with flaps on the front chest and swapping out the buckle back for adjustable buttons. Apart from these and a few other details, however, the Types I and II were relatively similar in design. But the Trucker is an entirely different beast. Unlike its boxy predecessors, it has a slimmer fit with higher, narrower flap pockets. And instead of the heavy, raw denim used on the others, it’s rinsed and preshrunk denim made it more comfortable and instantly accessible.

Get to Know the Goodness That is Levi’s Made & Crafted

Aug 28th, 2013 | Categories: Denim, Menswear, Sponsored Post | by Michael Williams


Miles Johnson Levis

It’s nice to see something come together from the start. A few years ago I got to look at the brand new Levi’s Made & Crafted collection and I’ve been a fan ever since. It was then that I met its design lead Miles Johnson, one of the most talented and  knowledge people I have had the pleasure of knowing the in business of clothing. Over the past several seasons Levi’s Made & Crafted has come to represent the perfect marriage of the history of Levi’s and modern style. The collection is rich with interesting details, special fabrics and historical Levi’s influences that play out in often unexpected ways. As menswear has evolved over recent years, Levi’s Made & Crafted has come to embody everything good about what a modern clothing label should be: it’s authentic, has a strong point of view and it nicely considers both the old and the new.

While in Amsterdam this summer, I spent some time with Miles to talk about where Levi’s Made & Crafted comes from, and where it is going.

ACL: How long have you worked for Levi’s in general?

Miles Johnson: 13 years.

ACL: And where did you grow up?

MJ: In England, in the Midlands.

ACL: Were you always interested in denim? Was it always a thing for you, or no?

MJ: I grew up in denim…we wore all denim.  I think I had my first pair of Levi’s when I was about seven years old and they were possibly Orange Tab. I didn’t really come across denim until I went back to school to study fashion when I was about 28 and I had worked in costume so I had to know the periods in costume and learn to break down clothes, and that’s where my interest in the manipulation of clothing (and I liked clothing) came from. I learned about how to distress and age pieces that we made specially for principle actors.  So that is when I really got into denim.

ACL: With the name “Made & Crafted,” that obviously puts the emphasis on how the clothes are made.  Does that inform everything that happens with the collection…about the details in collection?

MJ: We started off by wanting to call the collection “Levi’s Make,” because it was one of the labels that we used in the twenties.  And then we moved on to “Levi’s Made.”  And the reason why we wanted to just stick with that was “Make” was a name that symbolized quality.  Because quality never goes out of style. And so anything that had to do with Levi’s, the quality was always associated. And then, the word “crafted” was being used quite a lot at that time around our design offices — so we just put the words together.

Compelling Characters | Four Barrel’s Jeremy Tooker

Jun 5th, 2013 | Categories: Denim, Made in the USA, San Francisco | by Michael Williams

One thing you notice when you go to Four Barrel on Valencia Street in San Francisco is a decided lack of people camped out working on their laptops. This is intentional, there’s not power outlets or wi-fi provided because the focus is on coffee — as it should be. Granted, some people want to post up in a coffee shop soaking up all of the oxygen, but that’s why God invented Starbucks.

The guys at Tellason worked with the very talented folks at SF based Vertical Online to profile the compelling characters that wear Tellason jeans, including this video and the previous release that focused on motorcycle builder Todd Blugaugh. These short films are beautiful pieces strictly from a visual standpoint, but it’s nice to know that these connections are real and the guys actually wear the jeans. Much respect to Four Barrel, Vertical Online and Tellason for keeping it real.

Related: ACL’s 2009 interview of Tellason’s Tony Patella.