The years following the California Gold Rush of 1849 brought adventurers from all walks of life to the West, including a Bavarian immigrant named Levi Strauss. He set up shop in San Francisco, distributing dry goods like clothing, boots, and mining tools to small retailers throughout the West. It wasn't until nearly 20 years later, however, that Strauss teamed up with Jacob Davis, a tailor from Reno, to create the first pair of riveted blue jeans. They were patented under the name XX.
The XX barely resembled the fashion staple of today. These jeans were pure workwear, referred to as waist overalls for their high waist and suspender buttons. The iconic rivets of the XX were added solely for strength, and the material was a mix of brown cotton duck and 9oz blue denim from New Hampshire. It goes without saying that they were well received by the booming mining industry of the day.
More than a decade later, Levi's introduced the idea of including a leather patch on its pants—two horses attempting to pull a pant apart. It’s still in use today. Soon thereafter, this patch found itself on the newly introduced 501 blue jeans. Named for its lot number, the 501 took the place of the XX, and went on to rule the world of denim for over a century. Changing with the times over the years, it has featured a boot cut, wide leg, straight leg, waist suspender, belt loops, zip fly, button fly—you name it. Every period of the 20th and 21st centuries have had a Levi's 501 style to parallel the zeitgeist.
Of course, this is only a brief snippet of the Levi's story. Over the years the company has offered countless styles of jackets, shirts, and shoes for a variety of lines. The Levi's Commuter collection, designed for the urban cyclists, actually represents a return to Levi’s roots; it’s a little-known fact that Levi's first dabbled in biking pants in 1895.Today, the line is a popular not only among bike commuters, but with hikers, climbers, and anyone looking for durable, comfortable pants, shorts, and shirts made for movement.
An American icon, Levi's continues to push ahead, keeping its finger on the pulse of today, with a foot firmly planted in the past. If you can think of it, it's probably been done in a pair of Levi's.