Levi’s 501 Button Fly Jeans: My Favorite Pair of Pants Will Never Fade Away

” Busted flat in Baton Rouge, waiting for a train, and I’m feelin’ nearly as faded as my jeansâÂ?¦.”
Janis Joplin

If there were anything that I can’t live without these days it would be my Levis Button Fly 501 jeans. One pair lasts me a year, sometimes two, before they are retired to a special corner of my closet, and the new pair comes to town. It wasn’t always like this. When I was a small boy I refused to wear jeans. I thought that they put me somewhere between trailer trash and the hippies that lived down the street. The other thing was that when I was in my early teens, my parents didn’t have a whole lot of money to buy me clothes. Fortunately I had an uncle who was the same size as I was. He worked in an office and wore shiny polyester pants and striped shirts with cufflinks. I lived in a neighborhood that was predominately Italian and the uniform of choice for most of my friends was a Ban-Lon knit shirt and Bannister shoes, the kind that were shiny patent leather with pointed toes. It wasn’t until I was in high school that bell-bottom jeans, tie-dye T-shirts, and desert boots came into vogue. It seemed that everyone in the neighborhood went casual in a fortnight. All of a sudden everyone was wearing white Levi’s and Boon Dockers.

Loeb “Levi” Strauss was only 24 years of age when the California Gold Rush began in 1853. He decided to expand the family dry goods business and opened a store in San Francisco. The official story is that one of Loeb’s friends was a tailor with a problem. He had a customer who was a miner who kept ruining his pants by filling up the pockets with heavy gold nuggets. Loeb came up with the idea of constructing a pair of pants out of heavy cotton twill and riveting all of the stress points to keep them from breaking. The pants became so popular that the two men decided to patent their invention. Thus the legendary Levi’s were born.

Beginning in the 1970’s, old Levi’s became highly prized collector’s items. If you are lucky to have a well-preserved, identifiable pair of 19th century Levi’s, you might get $50,000 to $100,000 for them. Any article of clothing identified with the American cowboy seems to spark a lot of interest with collectors worldwide, especially in Europe and Japan, where some people might spend an entire week’s salary on a pair of “American” jeans.

So I wear my Levi’s for a year or two and then they are retired before they get too worn out. There are two schools of though on this of course, some people I know will keep a pair of Levi’s active until they are littered with patches and falling apart. I like the classic dark denim look and like to keep a little “blue” in my jeans. The other thing is that the little pile of Levi’s resting in the corner of my closet just might make my grandchildren rich in about 100 years.

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