Levi’s launched “The Greatest Story Ever Worn” campaign, a year-long celebration for the 150th anniversary of its iconic 501 jean.
The campaign, encompassing three short films directed by Martin de Thurah and Melina Matsoukas that explore original stories about the pioneering jean style, debuted Sunday night during the Grammy Awards.
With these stories, as well as others inspired by true events, Levi’s said the campaign “celebrates the 501 jeans’ incredible past and its role in countless historical, cultural and personal moments in order to inspire a new generation to write the next chapter.”
The first historically based film, “Precious Cargo,” shares the story of how 501 jeans made their way to Jamaica’s capital city of Kingston in the 1970s and how people on the Caribbean island made them uniquely their own. Directed by Matsoukas, Levi’s described the film as an “celebratory exploration of an island that’s distinct style, rhythm and soul has reverberated across the globe.”
For Matsoukas, working with Levi’s was a full-circle moment. She said early Levi’s spots were some of the pieces that inspired her to pursue a career in commercial filming.
“I always gravitate toward brands and creatives who lean into authentic storytelling and, with this piece, we were able to pay homage to a small but powerful story from the vast history of Levi’s,” Matsoukas said. “Everyone involved was willing to push the idea of commerciality and I believe that courage led to us creating a beautiful film.”
The second film, “Legends Never Die,” tells the true story of one devoted Levi’s wearer who requested to be buried in his 501 jeans. This specific fan asked all funeral attendees to wear their 501 jeans too. Levi’s said the film, directed by de Thurah, celebrates “humanity and the inextricable connection between a man who truly lived in his Levi’s 501 jeans.”
The third film, also directed by de Thurah, is set during a Georgian winter and tells the story of a boy who swapped his family’s beloved bell cow, the bovine leader of the herd, for a pair of jeans.
“I was intrigued by the challenge to create little stories in a mini format that together tell an even bigger story,” de Thurah said. “Levi’s is an iconic brand and being able to celebrate the 150th anniversary alongside my favorite people was a wonderful opportunity.”
The films follow the re-release of Levi’s 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 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.
“Few products, let alone pieces of clothing, have been as consistently present for so many human experiences, for as long as the 501,” said Chris Jackman, Levi’s VP of brand marketing. “Coming from the humblest of beginnings as workwear pants, Levi’s 501 jeans have become a blank canvas for self-expression that transcends the boundaries of culture, and class.”