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Levi Strauss 501 Shrinks To Fit Jean the icon of denim culture

Sustainable design and Eco denim is the new jeans’ revolution. The coming focus and trends in the jeanswear industry is sustainability in design, reduce chemicals, lower water and Carbon footprint. Every decade’s youngster develops a style, language and codes of their own such as punks, skinheads, rockers, mods and hippies’. One of the most iconic moments in denim history is the original Levi 501 Jean Shrinks To Fit (raw denim). Many avoid buying unwashed denim because of the shrinking and are not sure how to pick the right jean size.

In the youth movie classics Quadrophenia (1979), an incredibly cool scene takes place when the Mod Jimmy sits in the bathtub with a new pair 501 jeans on. When he was into the kitchen his father says “What have you got on? Is this some kind of new fashion thing I haven’t heard about? Sopping wet trousers?”. Jimmy answers back “You gotta shrink ‘em on you, so they fit right”.

The iconic Levi 501 Jean has inspired entire generations and subcultures adapted the style and fit, worn in many different ways, with turn-ups, oversized, worn or kept unwashed highlighting the dark blue indigo. In the 1950’s worn by the new breed of rebels on the silver screen and artist such as Elvis, Marlon Brando, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. It became a uniform and identity of the youngsters in the 1950s and a symbol of rebellious attitude. A symbol that illustrates the huge cultural gap between the parents’ generation and teenagers that did not understand their music or style of fashion. Jeans was seen as rebellious and in many states of the US forbidden to wear in college and universities, made teenagers wild and dangerous. In the 1960s the jean was adopted by the hippie’s generation and a symbol of anti-war (Vietnam), worn by the Beat generation and bikers standard outfit. 1969 the classic movie Easy Rider (Fonda, Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper) used denim jeans as a part of their uniform. Fonda, Nicholson and Hopper immortalized the denim jeans and it became an American symbol of freedom, riding on the highways across America from coast to coast.

Ten iconic moments in jean’s fashion history

“The Boss” Bruce Springsteen made denim a true American symbol worn by the masses while the “king of cool” Steve McQueen made sure denim jeans stayed popular among the trendy fashionistas.

In 1975 came the punk culture and once again was the Jean a part of the youth rebellious, worn by bands such as The Sex Pistols and The Clash made jeans into a working-class style, combined with black Dr Martens boots, customised tees, stencils, slogans, decorated leather jackets with spikes and paint, safety pins through their noses, the jean stood as a symbol of the anti-establishment.

Sub-cultural events since the 1950s made denim jeans the most iconic symbol of pop culture besides the t-shirt. In the 1970s, a band from Queens N.Y the punk-rockers The Ramones transformed the jean into a key part of the bands look, jeans are worn low on the hips, skinny fit, zip-fly combined with basic Converse shoes, band or second-hand tees, black leather jackets. During the 1990s out of Seattle came to a new sub-culture “grunge”, the band Nirvana made it big with their second record Nevermind and the song “smells like teen spirit”. The lead singer and songwriter Kurt Cobain favourite jeans were washed out, old, worn jeans, holes, patches and paint stains. The Grunge culture made thrift stores and second-hand clothing their preferred uniform. The 1990s denim jeans became a symbol of anti-consumerism and alter-globalization, inspired young people to take care of their old clothes and not buying into high street fashion, D.I.Y customized denim jeans and used clothes became popular as a reaction to the 1980s hedonistic lifestyle.

Levi original 501 shrinks to fit Jean is denim history, why they named it with the LOT number 501 is unknown as the Levi Strauss archives were lost 1906 when an earthquake caused a huge fire in the city of San Francisco. Not only have the classic 501 Jean retained its fame and relevance for every successive generation. Take a look in your closet. No matter where you live, chances you own a pair of 501 blue jeans is massive. However, this is the story of the iconic Levi 501 shrinks to fit Jean, it was first manufactured in Amoskeag, New Hampshire between 1873-1922, the jean made of finest selvedge denim and natural indigo. In 1922 Levi Strauss made a gentleman’s agreement (a verbal agreement no written contract) with the now-famous denim producer Cone Mills. The newly developed denim fabric was made with synthetic indigo denim, identified with a red line on the selvedge seam, the fabric called XX-denim only made for the Levi 501 Jean only.


Levi Strauss made some terrible mistake redesign the iconic 501 Jean in the 1990s

Around 1983 Levi Strauss modified the most selling jean in history, the original 501 jean it was a huge mistake. The flagship model changed from selvedge denim to a less expensive non-selvedge made on wider looms, still produced by Cone Mills. The fit and placement of back pockets reconstructed. Working in the company we could not understand why Levi Strauss made these changes, we heard the complaint from young consumers, particularly girls who told us that their ass looked bigger when the back pocket sizes changed. Nevertheless, the company blinded by their massive success in the 1980s did not listen to complaints from new employees working closer to the market. In addition denim quality poorer, fewer details made Levi jeans look old and dusty, new brands appeared on the scene such as Diesel and Replay with fresh innovative marketing campaigns and visually good looking denim jeans took large market shares.

The change of the back pocket sizes happened late 1990’s, visually damaging particularly size 27-29, discovered fast among teenage girls. Suddenly Levi Strauss jeans were out of fashion in the girl’s segment. We did research and tested the new vs old model on several young girls because salespeople noticed complaints from retailers. We addressed the issues, nevertheless as mentioned. Levi Strauss did not act. Together with other factors, Levi Strauss lost sizable market shares all over the world.

Today the 501 jean is strong, however, it will never again experience the same success. The value and unique history of Levi Strauss long heritage still make it the finest denim brand. Whatever Japanese, Swedish, American or Italian brand design of jeans, it is not even close compared with the 501 Jean. Cone Mills still produce fabrics for Levi Redline and selvedge denim Levi’s Vintage Clothing (LVC). The original 501 Jean Shrinks To Fit and of course, LVC is premium unwashed raw denim mostly appreciated by denimheads, people who hardly wash their jeans and ask questions such as how many dips? The Shrinks To fit denim Jean is more difficult buying process than regular pre-washed denim jeans, therefore, follows a small guide for beginners on how to buy unwashed denim

How to buy shrinks to fit 501 jeans

The classic Levi 501 shrinks to fit Jean is probably the best alternative of any jean in the segment, the mother of raw denim jeans. A brand with a cause and jeans with soul, therefore you have to put your soul into it as well. The Shrink-to-fit 501 Denim Jeans is an unwashed version of a regular pre-washed 501. A shrinks to fit jean become personally depending on how often you wear and wash, and break into your own. Most people will soak them before wearing. I recommend cold water the better option; if more shrinkage needed use hotter water. Denim should be washed inside out to lose as little indigo colour possible, machine wash is OK, inside out at the temperature between 30-40 degrees use no detergent before wearing. Most denimheads do not wash their jeans and wear it dark and raw, then the jeans adapt to the owner’s shape. Others wash them in the bathtub while wearing and dry them on until dry, they become signature jeans. Nevertheless, the best is to wear them as long as possible before washing to add uniqueness such as worn-out marks after wearing the jeans with a wallet in the back pockets etc.

My first Levi 501 Shrinks to fit jeans was worn more than eight months before washing, not wearing them daily, still the results amazing. Every structure of denim and indigo colour following the body movements creating moustache effects where worn most and the longer wearing before washing the better details appear. If you want a personal style make a plan. For example, if you want a look of wearing Zippo lighter, keep the Zippo in the pocket all the time wearing, the effect almost x-ray the form of the Zippo after washing. The same effect wearing keys hanging on the side of the Jean; wearing the jeans with turn-ups will make the same effect. Personally I never wash them in hot water as the denim surface keep its blank non-hairy surface. The hot water will make the denim surface hairy and the blank surface disappear.


Levi 501 Shrinks to fit jeans guide

  • Washing And Wearing
    • The hotter the water, the more they shrink.
    • It’s normal for dye colouring the water.
    • Rinse and drip dry until damp.
    • Put them on and wear until completely
    • Wear them as long as possible before you wash them.
  • Preserve
    • Wash infrequently and inside out.
    • Add one cup of white vinegar.
    • Line dries when possible.
  • Sizes waist
    • 27-36 – 1 size larger
    • 38-48 – 2 size larger
    • 50+ – 3 sized larger
  • Sizes Inseam
    • 26-34 – 3 size larger
    • 36+ – 4 size larger
  • Details Levi 501 Shrinks To Fit Jean
    • The original fit-runs straight and true through the seat, thigh and leg.
    • Tilted waistband pitches toward the front to sit just below the waist.
    • Five-pocket classical western jean design
    • Standard leather brand patch at back waist
    • Signature arcuate stitch at back pockets
    • Belt loop waistband
    • Button fly closure
    • 100% cotton

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