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Levi’s Dives Into Archives for the 501’s 150th Anniversary

Levi’s is embarking on a year of celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the 501—the pant that put jeans as we know them on the radar and in the closets of cowboys, workers, supermodels and tastemakers alike.

On Monday, the brand re-released its classic 1954 501 fit for men and 1981 501 for women, as well as a whole new range of finishes for both the 501 Original and the 501 ’93 to mark the milestone anniversary. 

The new Levi’s 501 ’54 jean features a higher rise with a slimmer, slightly tapered leg than the 501 Original and the 501 ’93. Levi’s describes it as “the perfect jean to wear with boots, or to stack over your favorite pair of sneakers, and offers a nice alternative to the straighter leg 501 jeans in the collection.”

The 501 ’81 is modeled on Levi’s first 501 designed for women. Structured like a mom jean, the 501 ’81 sits higher on the waist with a higher rise and features a slightly tapered leg that echoes the style associated with that era.

“The Levi’s 501 is really the modern template for what everyone thinks of as a blue jean,” said Karyn Hillman, Levi Strauss & Co. chief product officer. 

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The 501 was born when Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis were granted a patent on the process of riveting pants by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on May 20, 1873. Levi’s used the lot number 501 for the first time in 1890 to denote the highest quality jeans it offered.

Through its many iterations, the 501 has become one of the most enduring icons in fashion. What began as an innovative riveted work pant transformed over the decades to become not only a staple of cool and classic style, but also a canvas for self-expression.

“But through it all we’ve always stuck to the blueprint of the Original,” Hillman said.

The milestone tees up the opportunity for Levi’s to revisit its history in other ways as well. The 501 lineup is getting a new range of finishes inspired by jeans in the Levi’s archives, specifically the 1890 “Calico” 501, the 1978 “Ricky” 501, and a 1983 501. 

The range of archival finished jeans come with a special suite of 150th anniversary sundries. Elements include an anniversary backpatch, a special Red Tab with Levi’s on the front and “150” on the back, an interior woven anniversary label, a stamp on the interior pocket back, and a stamp on the inside of the shank buttons that says “1873-2023.”

There’s also a mix of vintage-inspired craft and patchwork finishes available across the range of 501 ’54, 501 ’93, and 501 Original jeans. Each is inspired by the popularity of vintage 501 jeans, and the way people alter and repair their jeans.