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Levi’s 501’s 150th Anniversary and Creative Visionaries

In May of 1873, Levi Strauss & Co. was officially granted patent number 139, 121 for copper rivets on its blue denim “waist overalls,” and the blueprint for the denim blue jean was officially born. Though it wouldn’t acquire lot number 501 to designate the famous copper-riveted denim pants until 1890, what began as highly durable workwear would transcend into one of the emblematic pieces of American clothing ever made by the middle of the 20th century.

In 2022, Levi’s is celebrating the Original 501’s 150th anniversary by releasing the re-interpretation of the iconic 501 ’90s jeans. The original denim brand’s newest style is old school in itself, emphasizing late 1990’s style. To celebrate the 501’s ‘90s launch, Levi’s welcomes trailblazing artists who sport the jeans that first arrived in the late 19th century.

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“The Original 501 is a true icon and has been for almost 150 years. It’s a foundational piece in everyone’s closet and the perfect blank canvas for individual style and self-expression,” Levi Strauss & Co. Chief Marketing Officer Karen Riley-Grant said in a press release. “For this campaign, we proudly teamed up with seven trailblazers who are famous for pushing boundaries and living authentic lives fueled by creativity and originality. They embody the aspirational spirit that the Levi’s 501 is famous for.”

Tremaine Emory sporting the new Levi's '90s denim jeans.
Paul + Williams/Levi Strauss & Co.

The famous names that have left a similar impact on American culture range from actor-producer and hip-hop sensation Kid Cudi and artist-designer Tremaine Emory to Mike D, a founding member of legendary Beastie Boys, and fashion icon Nathan Westling. Together, Levi’s and these cultural trailblazers are catalysts that changed the way we think about clothes, helping people to realize that just a single apparel item could serve as the launchpad for a signature style.

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Levi’s Original 501s have served as a badge of youthful rebellion, a staple of casual style, and a canvas for creative self-expression. As part of this campaign and encapsulating this aesthetic are art and fashion director and street-style influencer Gia Seo, designer Gabriella Karefa-Johnson — the first Black woman Vogue cover stylist — and Staz Lines, a model, musician, and member of the foundational punk band The Paranoyds.

Whether worn, painted, or customized, 501s have rolled through the decades, reflecting and affecting the mood of the day. This includes faded and slim 1980’s style, early 1990s ripped-up and baggy grunge, “dad” styles, and its current return to late ‘90s jeans. These feature a more relaxed fit through the seat and leg while maintaining the timeless Levi’s design, including the button fly, straight leg, and Red Tab.

“With denim, nostalgia can be a source of both comfort and style. Having that favorite worn-in pair of jeans from the past is what we aim to capture with the new 501 ‘90s jean — it taps into that vintage look and feel, but it’s been made fresh and modern for today,” Levi Strauss & Co. Chief Product Officer Karyn Hillman said in a press release.

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