Levi’s In Motion: As The Legendary Denim Brand Hits The Stock Market, Here’s A Brief History of Their Denim on Screen
If you happened to be hanging around the New York Stock Exchange this past Friday, you might have noticed something odd. In place of stuffy black suits and creased white shirts showered in sweat, tears and cigarette smoke, there were over 300 Canadian tuxedos (and its variations) roaming around Wall Street. March 22nd 2019 will forever be remembered as the day Levi’s went public, offering its stocks to the world at $17 a share and estimating the value of the company at $8.7 billion. But this monumental day wasn’t just important for all those getting off on numbers, graphs and Jerry Maguire-style shouting – this was yet another proof the fashion industry is going strong, its financial power up there with the tech giants. And we wouldn’t be Ten if we didn’t see this as a reason to look back and remember all those times Levi’s looked ab fab on screen. Thighs clad denim and packed with action – this is the best of Levi’s in motion.
Marlon Brando in The Wild One
Despite popular belief, Levi Strauss didn’t originally sell jeans to gold miners during the California Gold Rush. It all started in 1873 when Strauss teamed up with tailor Jacob Davis in patenting a specific copper rivet and therefore copper-riveted jeans. Yet it wasn’t until the 1890s that the company produced their signature Levi’s 501s. The popularity grew slow, until Hollywood picked them up. First John Wayne, then Marlon Brando and Elvis. Every sub-culture followed lead, from punks to hippies, everyone was clad in denim. Brando’s rebellious Johnny from The Wild One would never be the hot piece of meat (sorry vegans) if there wasn’t for his tight leather jacket and even tighter 501s. A blue jeans craze ensued, with stonewash denim becoming a staple in every American’s wardrobe. An uncredited cameo appearance of Levi’s popped up in one of the most iconic features of that decade – Luke Skywalker’s signature white slacks tucked into a pair of boots were actually bleached out 501s.
Luke Skywalker in Star Wars (1977)
From Star Wars to denim wars – as the popularity of jeans grew, so did its market. And with competition came a need for distinction. Cue a rich visual vault of TV and digital ads starring the pair of everyone’s favourite trousers. Arguably the most iconic of the lot is the 1985 video ad promoting the launch of a stonewashed jean – as the reincarnation of young Marlon Brando strips down to his pants inside the laundromat, the crowd goes wild… But he’s only washing a pair of Levi’s, “the original shrink-to-fit jeans”.
Known for her denim twinning with Justin, Britney Spears might be the uncrowned queen of denim. As demonstrated in her Overprotected music video with the customised chaps and a matching studded jacket, Britney had a special power of making denim look sexy. The relationship between Levi’s and music continued until today, with the long list of collaborators including Loyle Carner and Haim sisters as well as their Circles project, promoting individuality through togetherness in dance.
More lately, Levi’s also took a turn towards making a positive impact on the society. Creating a major campaign in celebration of last year’s Pride Month, they created a video featuring seven strong individuals, such as activist iO Tillett Wright, drag queen Juanita MORE! and chef Melissa King, all reminiscing their stories of love and acceptance.
Apparently, making the world a better place counts for something. Exactly 8.7 billion of American dollars. Here’s to Levi’s!