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BRAND ICON: LEVI’S

Posted on September 21, 2013, by Gary Kingsnorth

During the Cold War, there was one item that epitomised the American vision of freedom. As the Berlin Wall divided east and west, it was Levi’s jeans that became the Western product that for East Berliners stood for glamour, money and celebrity. Blue jeans triumphed, the wall came down, and Levi’s jeans became not just a rebellion, but a lifestyle. And since, Levi’s has secured its position as a true brand icon, the red and white logo instantly recognised all over the world. But what is the story behind the all-American brand; how did a pair of blue jeans become so covetable?

Levi-Strauss and Co. began in San Francisco during the late 19th century, slowly expanding as the company sold jeans to prospective gold miners during the California gold rush. At the turn of the century, the jeans were by no means a fashion statement, but instead the tough denim was a necessity for the hard working lives of cowboys and ranchers as the American frontier moved ever westward.

It was during the 1950s that this working image changed, with the advent of Levi’s most famous jean, the 501. With its unique ‘shrink-to-fit’ sizing, the 501 became the jean of the 1950s generation. Crossing the spectrum of American society, it was worn by cowboys and greasers, college kids and hippies. The simple, rigid denim was an instant American classic, the aesthetic still holding cultural currency even today.

It is this all-American image that cemented the brands eternal appeal. For Americans, it represents a rugged history of cowboys and Indians, for the rest of the world a sense of American glamour – a history of Elvis Presley and James Dean. Even now, in a world of Japanese jeans and thousands of denimwear brands, the Levi’s 501 still holds court as the ultimate icon of denimwear.
But Levi’s as a brand has extended far beyond the 501. With seminal adverts using songs by Marvin Gaye, Blur and The Clash, Levi’s has created a brand image that is the epitome of urban cool, the marketing campaigns as important as the product itself. Not only making jeans in every shape and style – twisted, skinny, slimfit – the brand has expanded into jackets, t-shirts and other casual wear. With Levi’s stores all over the world, it is no wonder it is one of the most recognisable brands in the world.

But ultimately, Levi’s succeeds because of it’s versatility. With jeans in all different colours and styles, there is something for everyone. Whether you choose Levi’s 501s with a fitted white tee, or black Levi’s skinnies with a baggy checked shirt, Levi’s jeans cross all fashion cross sections. And so, Levi’s has become more than just a brand, more than just jeans, but a lifestyle, one that is still coveted all over the world. Inspired by this shop Levi’s in the Store