Originally intended as workwear, the garment has evolved into a timeless design that has been embraced by many generations.
In honor of the anniversary, Levi's is redesigning the men's 501, which debuted in 1954, drawing inspiration from the model that launched that very same year but with a higher rise and a slightly slimmer leg fit.
The 501 style, the first edition for women released in 1981 and featuring a mom fit and a tighter leg fit typical of the '80s, is also being celebrated.
This celebratory capsule collection of items also includes a number of washes that draw inspiration from the brand's archives.
A variety of washes and finishes are also offered for the 501 Short for both men and women. A series of jeans based on the company's archives and a special back patch bearing the text "150" are also included in this anniversary collection, along with buttons bearing the engraving "1873-2023" and rivets bearing the text "150".
Some of the A-list superstars that are often seen dressed in Levi’s 501 jeans, cutoffs, or jackets include Snoop Dogg and Hailey Baldwin, plus models like Joan Smalls, Candice Huffine, and Emily Ratajkowski. Others include former US President Barack Obama, NFL star Victor Cruz, rapper/actor Jaden Smith, actor Dylan McDermott, and rapper Wiz Khalifa. Kurt Cobain and Steve Jobs were also fans of the famous model.
Snoop, who frequently DJs for company gatherings and has been a longtime friend of the brand, spoke with PEOPLE to discuss how it all began.
“I’ve been buying Levi’s for probably 37 years,” says Snoop. “I struck a relationship with Levi’s once I became Snoop Dogg and was able to put a business plan in effect. They saw that I was wearing their product and I was supporting their product without them even giving me Levi’s. So it only made sense to forge a relationship with them because their product has always been a part of Snoop Dogg, and a part of my community.”
For Baldwin, her go-to's were the 501 jeans. “I’ve worn 501s for a long time and it works with everything,” she tells PEOPLE about the iconic style. “To me, you can’t go wrong with denim, and Levi’s is the best denim brand.”
The star of the annual 501 jeans campaign, says she’s most often styling the jeans in the same way she does to most parties — with a sexy crop top and red Vans hi-tops.“I’m a crop top and sneakers and boots kind of girl. Or a bustier-style top,” she says. “Whatever you feel comfortable in, you can’t go wrong.”
On May 20, 1873, a patent for copper rivets on work pants was issued, and since then, it has evolved into the most recognizable and significant piece of clothing ever made. The 501® family has transcended time and culture, appearing in closets throughout decades as a canvas for rule-breaking, do-what-you-want fashion. The Levi's® 501® family is still a favorite among many customers all over the world even though the current denim age is characterized by looser and more relaxed fits for both men's and women's clothing.
Since its invention in 1873, the Levi’s® 501® jean has taken on a life of its own, becoming a beloved global icon of culture and enduring style,” said Karyn Hillman, chief product officer at Levi Strauss & Co. “The 501® fit has transcended from pure utilitarian workwear to an everyday uniform adopted by fans in every corner of the cultural landscape, across multiple generations. With such a monumental anniversary for the brand, we’ve leaned into our history, while threading through innovation and modern design, to bring a unique and exciting range of Levi’s® products to consumers around the world.”
For a very long time, Levi's has had a story to tell about how jeans entered popular culture. The 150th anniversary of its renowned 501 jeans provides a unique opportunity for it to share that story. The narrative connecting the jeans with the lives of those who wear them begins in earnest this Sunday during the Grammy Awards with an ad campaign dubbed “The Greatest Story Ever Won”.
Given the company's strong connection to music, it makes sense to start here anyway.
Levi's Vice President of Brand Marketing Chris Jackman said the brand has become "the unofficial uniform of musicians or festivalgoers. Music chose us, we didn't choose music, but we certainly love the marriage.”
Two mini-films that are part of the campaign that debuted at the music awards presentation demonstrate some of the ways Levi's 501s have come to dominate people's lives all over the world. In "Precious Cargo," Kingston residents discuss how the 501s arrived in Jamaica in the 1970s, how they adopted the style, and how they finally spread it over the world.
And “Legends Never Die” demonstrates how someone who lived their entire life in Levi's opted to pass away in them as well, requesting to be buried in his 501s and for everyone attending his burial to wear them as well. The ads support what Jackman referred to as “an ever-expanding narrative that we’ve been a part of.”
“The campaign is grounded in storytelling, illustrating Levi’s connections to lives and culture at large, but it started with the product and a deep dive into Levi’s archives,” Jackman said.
“As we started seeing the product history in conjunction with the stories, that was the marriage and the lightbulb went off,” he said. “When you stitch them together, we believe it represents not just the history of our brand, but the product — no one else can match it. It brings the moment to a place where you can connect with it emotionally. We have a unique position here — 150 years isn’t met by many brands, let alone in clothing. That’s the kind of longevity that is more common among the European luxury brands than on the American scene and is a milestone that comes during a changing of the guard at Levi's,” Jackman added.
Not only are Levi's 501 jeans a mainstay in wardrobes everywhere, but they are also a garment that is deeply ingrained in the history of fashion and design. It's a product that has stood the test of time and is still helping to strengthen Levi's brand today.
In celebration of this huge milestone, Levi's will add fresh styles to its 501® line of products. These will include limited-edition product releases including a newly redesigned version of the brand's original blue jeans, the 1873 "XX Waist Overalls," for both the men's 501 '54 and the women's 501 '81. It's a look back for Levi's that closes the circle and begins a new chapter in a story that started in 1873 when the company received a patent for copper rivets on work pants.