Hands On | Levi’s Vintage Clothing

It doesn’t get better for me than the Levi’s Vintage Clothing collection. The garments are produced to exact historical specifications, almost becoming new dead stock jeans. If you live in Europe or Japan it has been easier to get your hands on a pair of Levi’s LVC than if you live in the States. Well friends, times they are a changin’. LS & CO recently formed a specific group (called “XX” meaning “extra strong”) to consolidate the company’s premium businesses. This new division will be headed up by the well respected Maurizio Donadi, who is a veteran of both Diesel and RRL. Safe to say XX is in good hands. Along with the new focus on the premium market, you will see that LVC is going to have a more consistent presence in the land of the free, which is how it should be.


There have been points through the years that have marked significant changes in the classic 501 jean. For instance in 1922 when men started wearing belts instead of suspenders so Levi’s started adding belt loops and removed the buttons for the braces. In 1944, the U.S. government demand that all businesses ration materials like fabric, thread and metal. So the 1944 LVC 501 was made without rivets on the watch pocket, crotch and cinch. The War Department also determined that the famous Levi’s back pocket stitching – called the Arcuate – was “decorative and a waste of thread” according to LS & CO Historian Lynn Downey. So rather than lose its trademark, Levi’s hand painted the Arcuate on every pair of Levi’s 501 WWII jeans.

In 1947, the modern 501 appeared with a slimmed down fit and a machine applied (and uniform) Arcuate, with a diamond shape at the middle. Prior to the use of the double needle sewing machines, the back pocket stitching was done with a single needle machine and varied from jean to jean. Another important date (and LVC model) is 1966. This is the year that bar tack technology became developed enough to create a stitch that was as strong as the traditionally used rivets. So starting in 1966, Levi’s did away with the back pocket rivets (which had a tendency to scratch things when you sat down) once and for all. 1966 was also known as the “Bob Dylan” era for Levi’s. More history of the Levi’s 501 jean can be found here. (PDF)

Download Times They Are A-Changin’



Detail images of the Levi’s Vintage Clothing SS/10 collection below.

[tylr-slidr userID=”7393890@N04″ groupID=””]http://www.flickr.com/photos/mkwilliams/sets/72157621838043805/[/tylr-slidr]

Comments on “Hands On | Levi’s Vintage Clothing

    taken root on August 6, 2009 12:34 PM:

    Praise God (and Americana revivalism) !!!!!

    jook on August 6, 2009 12:53 PM:

    This is great news, thanks!

    Dana on August 6, 2009 2:19 PM:

    Michael!!!!! You must let me know exactly when and where I can get my hot little hands on the line, as soon as you do. Been desperately seeking the women’s line which I hope also makes it’s way into my country, and closet.


    Ryan Tomorrow on August 6, 2009 2:25 PM:

    The 501 XX single rinse that J. Crew carries are my favorite pair, hands down. Glad to hear the sometimes quixotic LVC will be getting some direction and consistency. Now where to find them…

    Chris Bryer on August 6, 2009 2:55 PM:

    Amazing stuff! I will be owning some of this. When I was a young teenager my entire wardrobe was Vans (navy canvas only), 501’s in shrink-to-fit selvedge and a white tee shirt.

    Jay on August 6, 2009 3:11 PM:

    Hallelujah!!! Ordering “Made in the USA” raw LVC from Europe for the past few years was almost too silly for me to do.

    I HOPE TO GOD they offer more models in raw/rigid finish than they did in their last go-round in the States. For example, LVC Europe has a special Cone Mills Collaboration for their 1915 501s in their upcoming Fall collection.

    I did notice that the pictures above show a 1933 model, which is promising…I’m also digging what I saw of the non-denim pieces, as well as the shirt boxes. I have a Sunset shirt box that came with a piece from the Spring ’09 collection and it’s impressive.

    Jay on August 6, 2009 3:16 PM:

    Also, on the back pocket rivets…although when uncovered they did appear to scratch things (which was especially aggravating when talking about expensive horse saddles), Levi actually solved this problem by covering over the rivets on the back pockets around ’37. I think the move to bar tacks in ’66 was more of a cost-saving measure than anything.

    jfox on August 6, 2009 3:57 PM:

    swwwweet. cant think of anything cute to say, just killer news.

    Evan on August 6, 2009 4:11 PM:

    So are these actually going to be made in the states?

    Do any of these american companies have any intention on moving more than just their ‘Premium’ lines to be manufactured here? It would be great if some of these big legacy american brands did more of that, to make quality american made stuff cheaper and more accessible…

    Maybe even with moving more production to the states they still couldn’t compete with overseas manufacturing…

    Josh on August 6, 2009 4:12 PM:

    Finally! I’ve been buying my ’47s from Cultizm.com for too long (although, they’re great do deal with). LVC need to be in America!

    Chris Bryer on August 6, 2009 4:15 PM:

    Evan: As a garment manufacturer, please trust me when I say we almost all wish we could make our goods here rather than overseas. The logistics issues we face by making things overseas is much more challenging than making it in our own backyard, Also, there simply are not enough skilled workers left in the USA to really have much impact. Costs here are just too high for the “average” consumer.

    dandy on August 6, 2009 4:24 PM:


    JP on August 6, 2009 5:18 PM:

    About friggin’ time. Maurizio Donadi will crush it. I look forward to the goodness.

    Evan on August 6, 2009 10:39 PM:


    Yeah I understand. It’s just a shame that that’s the way things are. I just wonder too like if there were simply TONS of volume moved into skilled labor and clothing manufacture here, it might lower the cost. I bet even then it wouldn’t be enough to compete with China or wherever.

    It would be nice especially with so many people out of work. The problem too comes with the fact that when you pay people here in the states it costs so much more because they have more standards and protected rights, where elsewhere abuse of workers can be much more prevalent.

    I don’t know. Surely no easy answers. I just know that the thing that makes so many of these brands great is that they are American, and if they are made here, you know the quality is that much higher, though you will pay a premium.

    No easy answers. Thanks for your response.

    Michael Williams on August 6, 2009 10:49 PM:

    Just one thought on Evan’s comment. I don’t really think that quality is always better if the goods are made in America. With certain things yes, but I would think that Chinese quality in iPod production would be higher than if the goods were made in the U.S. Same thing goes for Japan. American ingenuity established many of the techniques that are used in modern manufacturing, but American manufacturing came to prominence for its ability to produce on a huge scale. The WWII era Sherman tank is a perfect example. Not by any means as good as the German tanks, but in the time the Germans could make 1800 (far superior) Tiger tanks, we made 18,000 Sherman tanks and just overwhelmed the enemy. Well, those days are gone now and it would be safe to say they are never coming back. Imagine the U.S. government trying to ramp-up war time production. They would have to kick out all of the people living (squatting; credit crunch anyone?) in the old factories that have since been converted into luxury condos!


    P.S. I’m glad Levi’s still makes these bad boys in the U.S. from Cone denim.

    Jay on August 6, 2009 11:04 PM:

    I don’t think you can say that Levi makes jeans in the US. They closed down their remaining US factories earlier this decade (including the historic Valencia St. factory in SF…what a shame). As far as I know, any Stateside production Levi has done is contracted out.

    Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Busted on August 7, 2009 3:04 AM:

    Let’s hope this commitment is permanent, for these are generally a great product – which also needs retailer knowledge to sell.

    There have been odd errors for LVC but in general, for the amount of love put into the product, they don’t get enough love from denim nerds. They have produced a lot of obscure amazing models (333, 201, 206, Sunset shirts, even a cotton duck hunting jacket) which give a great insight into the history of denim, and indeed social history.

    Wbot on August 7, 2009 6:28 AM:

    I haven’t been a friend of Levis since the Gap & Levis pollution scandal :/

    JB on August 7, 2009 7:55 AM:

    Great news! This is an American icon that must not die.

    Matt on August 7, 2009 1:54 PM:

    More importantly, will they be readily available in the US again? LVC disappeared from the Levi’s stores last year (with the exception of leftovers). I purchased several items from S/S LVC from cultizm.com.

    Michael Williams on August 7, 2009 2:00 PM:

    Matt — did you read the post?

    “LVC…is going to have a more consistent presence in the land of the free”

    And I’m not talking about Bermuda. —ACL

    angelo on August 7, 2009 3:57 PM:

    See, we don’t need the Japanese to remake our classics.

    Chris Bryer on August 7, 2009 4:33 PM:

    I saw the goods today and second everything Michael has mentioned. The stuff just looks classic and quality. I cant wait to wear some.

    Makaga on August 8, 2009 7:48 AM:

    Hi, All,

    I was just in the J.Crew Men’s Store the other day speaking with the nice salespeople.
    They had mentioned the ‘antique’ Levi’s line that they were partnered with, and that was coming to stores in the next season or two.
    Does anyone know if this is the same apparel in this post?

    And, if so, I guess J.Crew will be the place to buy such items??


    Rob on August 9, 2009 5:26 PM:

    Its nice to see Levis is finally going to make a USA made product again, I look forward to it. Reading Chris’s comment, sad, with every company leaving the US using that mentality, they have destroyed the working industry here in the USA. We (AMERICA) need to wake up and say’ “hey if you dont want to manufacture here, we dont need your product” Until that happens, China, Japan, India etc owns the United States. Global economy works!! Just not for the United States. Sad future for our children and grandchildren in this country trying to attain the american dream.

    E on August 10, 2009 5:58 PM:

    Those are the 1933 cinch back model with National Recovery Act label. Great jeans. Like the 1955 replica. Or the 1917’s.

    tim simpson. on August 13, 2009 12:53 PM:

    i am from england, and i truly belive that ALL levi’s product’s should be made in the USA, as with many non-american’s when i think of the USA i think of LEVI’S BLUE JEAN’S…the LEVI’S VINTAGE CLOTHING line allows me to wear the same type of jean’s as AMERICAN ICON’S such as marlon brando, steve mcqueen, elvis presley, marilyn monroe, martin sheen, and many other’s, plus LEVI’S VINTAGE CLOTHING is better made and looks better and better with age and wear, it was silly not selling it in the USA, when alot of it is made there…LVC needs to do the long inseam’s again, ( 38 inch and 40 inch ) so everyone can get the size’s that work best for them !!!!!!!!!

    Sunny on August 13, 2009 2:02 PM:

    According to Frank Muytjens / New York Times today LVC will no longer be produced after A/W 2009:

    Michael Williams on August 13, 2009 2:08 PM:

    Sunny — that is incorrect. LVC will continue.


    Sunny on August 13, 2009 4:48 PM:

    I thought so. Because from an European horizon this seemed strange. LVC is highly esteemed over here and has been available for years. I wear my 501 37’s / 55’s respectively 505 67’s with pride (love them all). It would have been absurd if you fellows have been kept away from that privilege. PS As said, take a look at the 1915 Cone Mills Collab. LVC A/W 2009. They’re great.

    Rob on August 13, 2009 5:10 PM:

    Tim I agree with you on the 40in inseam. For a person like me, I have long legs and wear a 36in inseam. LVC does have a 38inch inseam but unless there the 67 505 preshrunk the rest of the lineup are shrink to fits. Check out Cultizm.com, a lot of the bigger sizes are gone already but there are a few left according to inventory.

    Rob on August 14, 2009 9:14 AM:

    Has anyone been on the Levis website. In the 501s, they are offering 3 different versions of what they claim is Premium selvedge denim in rich supersaturated indigo for 98bucks. It comes in Chipped Rigid, Resin Rinse and Perfect Worn. Just wondering if anyone bought them.

    Neil Eleven on August 14, 2009 12:19 PM:

    I’ve lucky enough to working (well selling) LVC in the UK for the last 10 years. The people who crave these are wide and varied but all have one thing in common, we (they) want a product that is beyond fashions and fads, true provenance. Most of our friends want a dry unwashed jean, the purity – we are a smitten with LVC here and couldn’t consider any other jean !

    dave on August 15, 2009 12:44 AM:


    levi’s are comin’ home!

    jack on August 16, 2009 8:07 PM:

    The quality of 501’s has gone down hill for many years. I will NEVER waste my money on another pair of Levi’s.

    Sean S. on September 2, 2009 8:48 PM:

    I cry shenanigans on the idea that there are “not enough” skilled people left in the industry. If thats the case then who the hell is American Apparel hiring? American Apparel is not a “boutique” label with a small staff; it employs some 5,000 workers in its manufacturing base. Evidently they didn’t just appear out of no where.

    As AA was one of the few apparel companies that didn’t get hit hard by the recession, unlike American Eagle, Abercrombie, and others, its clear that their idea of vertical integration makes alot more sense, as it allows faster turn around time and an ability to move with the market. The 3 month float from China is clearly crippling the ability of fashion retailers to respond to what are very rapid trends in the economy and consumer spending.

    money on September 19, 2009 10:45 AM:

    I refuse to buy any jean on the market. The quality is gone.

    You may march in the lemming parade…not my kids

    Abby Franquemont on October 3, 2009 12:52 PM:

    For me the major disappointment in Levis nowadays isn’t with the cuts as it is with the low-grade denim fabric presently available. With the abandonment of US-based textile mills which made high-grade, durable denim for over a century, there’s now essentially no long-lasting and high quality denim anywhere. There was a time when Levis were a black market commodity in parts of the world where the local jeans were produced with substandard fabrics that didn’t wear well; that time is gone, and now all we have anywhere is the blue jean fabrics even the third world didn’t like 20 years ago.

    I’d gladly pay top dollar for a pair of jeans with a life expectancy of more than 6 months. The trouble is, it would require a huge shift in the world’s spinning and weaving mill markets to make it happen, and with today’s consumers apparently willing to accept fabrics like those that actually gave us the word “shoddy” in the early industrial era, that’s not likely to happen.

    Chuck on October 24, 2009 11:12 PM:

    So, where can we get these XX’s?


    robbor on December 4, 2009 4:47 PM:

    When i was a kid in the 60’s Levis were so thick and stiff you could lean them up against the wall. And wearing a new pair was torture until they softened a bit in the washer. A very, very different animal than the ones made today.

    Michael on December 18, 2009 9:20 AM:

    The year 2000 seems like “the good ‘ol days”. At least all 501’s were made of 14oz denim, the entry level for heavy weight denim. Now most 501’s are made of 12.5oz denim, and instead of it being called mid-weight denim, it’s now called “premium denim”. Preshrunk 501’s have been further neutured with single-stitched inseams, and the Levis Stauss Company should be ashamed of itself for making STF 501’s with mid-weight 12.5oz denim with the color black actually being made with 11.5oz denim. Isn’t most of the LVC run made with single-stitched inseams, which I do not believe to be factually correct in most instances? 505 and 517 are still advertised with 14- 14.75oz denim.

    Bob on January 12, 2010 10:56 AM:

    I know what you mean about the fading of genuine Levi’s quality but their vintage line of clothes are better than anything out there. In the 1970’s, when I was in my twenties, I was fortunate to have bought up new and old US-made Levi’s 501 jeans and work jackets in sizes that anticipated my subsequent growth (in girth). I have enough jeans with real selvage, color and quality to last a lifetime, but I still am acquiring those vintage Levi’s denims from European websites. I still have Levi’s I never unpacked from a foray to their shop in San Francisco in the mid-1990s when you could still buy US-made great Levi’s there. Go figure. Should I be seeing a doctor?

    tim simpson on January 18, 2010 2:11 PM:

    hi michael, levis 501 jeans always had single stitched inseams (single felled) back in the good old days, they were fazed out in the mid 1980’s, single felled inseams, as they are really called, are stronger than the double felled inseams, this is because they lay flater and do not receive the wear and tear that the more pronounced double felled inseams receive, plus i feel they look better, more upmarket and classy, back in those days the hems at the bottom of the legs were chain stitched, which also looks much better, so the LVC inseams are correct, but i do feel they do seem to get one or two details wrong sometimes, i have seen and do own pairs of original vintage selvedge 501 jeans…

    tim simpson on January 18, 2010 2:26 PM:

    hi bob, if you need to see a doctor, then so do i, and a lot of other denimheads,,,i am from england, and was at school in the 1970’s, but i have often thought to myself that if i had had the chance to do what you have been doing over the years,,, that is stocking up on levis jeans,,, i would have done it,,, i have done it with the LVC jeans (1947,1955, and 1966 501xx), i also have found used 1970’s 501’s both single and double stitched (this refer’s to the stitching on the inside top of the back pockets,,,not the inseams), i would be delighted if someone with a brain would get all levis 501 jeans to be made back in the USA,,, it would be good for the US economy,,, USA jeans made with USA materials made by USA citizens, and sold to and bought by USA citizens,,, but american companys seem to have pressed the self destruct button,,, it is time for america and great britain to wake up, and start manufacturing again, before it is too late !!!!!!!!!

    DJ on February 8, 2010 9:29 PM:

    I work for Levi’s, and can tell you that sadly, most of what is coming from the new “XX” will be produced in Turkey. (And designed/headquartered out of Belgium) Especially the products that have a “vintage wash” to them. (laundered in Italy) The premium capital E line, has been abandoned, as well as the LVC line. “XX” is geared to be a super-premium line with super-premium prices. There will be a more consistent release of archival pieces, yes. However, the country of origin will be based upon economic factors rather than skilled artisanship. My advice is to stock up on “Made in the USA” deadstock/unwashed versions on eBay or @ Cultizm. (many of which came from Taylor Togs out of North Carolina) There will be some American made ridged denim, however it will be pieced out to several different factories. (mostly in California) Please do not get too excited. It may take a season or two to work the bugs out. Thanks. DJ

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