Levi’s x Brooks Brothers c.1937

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.”

Brooks Brothers label, plus cinch-back detailing, no suspender buttons, capital E on the tag, arcuate without a diamond crossover and covered back pocket rivets date these 501s as late 1930s to early 1940s.

Comments on “Levi’s x Brooks Brothers c.1937

    Simon Tuntelder on November 13, 2012 7:11 PM:

    That is very interesting. Thanks for sharing. To see two American giants having been affiliated so long back is something, that I didn’t know about. And it surprises me quite a lot, since many wouldn’t think of jeans, when they think of Brooks Brothers.

    I think I remember seeing a pair of Levi’s with a Abercrombie and Fitch tag as well. Maybe not entirely the same, but it is also a surprise, that jeans were being sold a two places, that you wouldn’t connect with jeans.

    Best regards Simon

    bobdale on November 14, 2012 12:26 AM:

    Thai Fakes IMO.

    John King on November 14, 2012 2:03 AM:

    One word…Rare.

    Abraxas on November 14, 2012 5:30 AM:

    More holier than thou denim, yawn.

    doug on November 14, 2012 8:38 AM:

    Unless Levis or Brooks Brothers could confirm these actually existed I would consider them fakes as well.

    Michael Williams Sr. on November 14, 2012 10:47 AM:

    Haha, Michael Williams losing street cred here, yo! Look at how the Brooks Brothers label is stitched.

    Matt on November 14, 2012 2:09 PM:

    Fakes…no Levi’s patch on the back of a barely used pair of jeans?

    doug on November 14, 2012 2:32 PM:

    Thanks for adding Lynn’s update Michael. If they are an authentic dude ranch era, store labeled pair, they will demand some serious cash.

    Dan on November 14, 2012 2:33 PM:
    Gabe on November 14, 2012 3:22 PM:

    Relevant maybe, “Winthrop Brooks, heir to the Brooks Brother fortune and his partner in the dude ranch for the first decade”

    Fashion Clothing Store on November 14, 2012 7:17 PM:

    What a fascinating find! I bet that is super rare. I can’t imagine it being fake though.

    bobdale on November 15, 2012 12:55 AM:

    my comment was mostly tongue in cheek.

    I can understand Abercrombie & Fitch selling Levis considering their history as THE outfitter. It’s just hard to grasp Brooks Brothers selling jeans in the 1930’s considering the societal norms of the era. They weren’t fashionable at the time, they were clothes worn by the working class, poor, and jail birds.

    I am not calling them fakes, I am just saying it is an incredibly difficult thing to believe.

    bobdale on November 15, 2012 1:01 AM:

    ehh — hell, I forgot things like the Yale and Harvard Co-Op . The early Madras items, and other items had tags people wouldn’t look at and think of as ‘Brooks Brothers’. Michael, I want to reinforce that I was kidding with my ‘Thai Fakes’ comment. I appreciate the hell out of this blog.

    davis on November 15, 2012 3:33 PM:

    Edmund Randolph, trust fund beneficiary of a Wall Street fortune, wrote a memoir of his days on a dude ranch near Sheridan Wyoming in the early 1930s entitled HELL AMONG THE YEARLINGS. He mentions frequently that his clothes as well as those of other guests at the time were from Brooks Brothers (shirts, overcoats, luggage) and Levi’s. Somewhere I’ve seen photos of a BB store window from those years that featured jeans and boots. Theres a book on Molesworth western furnitute published by Gibbs Smith that has a photo from the archives of Abercrombie and Fitch in the early 40s, a showroom display with Molesworth furniture, cowboy boots and denim. My guess is that it was in the air in those years and that Brooks Bros did indeed sell Levi’s. If the Yale Coop during that time featured Dickies, I dont think the working man conotations of Levi’s would have been a barrier Brooks would not have crossed.

    bg on November 16, 2012 1:26 PM:

    Not to divert, but I saw some Filson at Nordstrom Rack a few months ago and thought it seemed odd. Does anyone know if it was every actually in Nordstrom or did it just go to the rack?

    David Royce on November 16, 2012 1:53 PM:

    It must be tough sewing an old Brooks Brothers label onto a pair of old Levis ..lol…I’m getting so bored of “vintage.” Regarding denim, this is the biggest scam ever invented…the stuff sells for $1.50 – $3.00 per metre in quantity and ends up in a pair of jeans costing $250.00.

    John King on November 16, 2012 4:00 PM:

    @David it sounds like maybe you should move on. No need to comment bash on a topic you admittedly are “bored” with.

    Ana D. Blank on November 17, 2012 7:54 AM:

    Levis <3

    Tim Dirgins on November 21, 2012 10:04 AM:

    I worked at Brooks Bros for 8 years and had access to old catalogs and the archive. I do not recall ever seeing denim in any of the materials from that era…mostly knickers and heavy wool pants. Brooks was manufacturing almost all of its apparel in its own factories—why sell Levi’s? They easily could have made their own if they had wanted to… I think these are fakes.

    davis on November 22, 2012 1:46 PM:

    Well of course they could be fakes, the style and fount of the Brooks label raises the most doubt, but I am old enough to have bought Lacoste knit shirts from Brooks Brothers under a double labeling in the early 1960s, and further, wandering into any vintage dealer you can find, from time to time, sweaters “made in Scotland” from Brooks Brothers most likely not elaborated by Brooks as a maker.

    Tim Dirgins on November 26, 2012 1:11 PM:

    Items that were made by BB typically have “Makers” on the label. The label doesn’t even look correct for a vintage BB label, as they were usually black in that era if memory serves. Font is also wrong.

    John on November 29, 2012 5:41 PM:

    those are pretty awesome, I don’t wear much denim anymore though
    really into the brushed twill..

    Jonathan Walford on December 3, 2012 10:39 AM:

    Brooks Brothers catered to the gentleman, but the Dude ranch was as ‘in’ a place to go in the late 1930s as a spa is today, and gentelmen of the 1930s, who customed Brooks Brothers would expect to be able to buy all their wardrobe there, including tennis togs, swimsuits, riding jodhpurs, and Dude Ranch jeans. Admittedly, I don’t know what Brooks Brothers store tags looked like in the late 1930s, but the concept of BB carrying Levi’s is not unusual for the time. Many stores are carrying Paris couture at the time and have two labels – the maker/designer’s tag, and the retailer’s tag, so I am not surprised it would happen with jeans as well.

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