An American Icon (01:50)
Blue jeans are uniquely American, and a big business. There are more than 1000 brands on the market, but the Levi's name has become the universal trademark of jeans. Levi Strauss created the original blue jeans over a century ago.
International Appeal (02:26)
Levi's brought denim, side-stitching and rivets into just about every American household. At its peak of popularity in 1996, Levi's was the unrivalled king of jeans, the brand coveted around the globe.
Fickle Fashion (01:19)
Eventually other brands began to take market share away from Levi's. But the company worked hard to regain its status. Levi's has a long history of success. Its determination is key to its comeback.
Designing Pants for 49ers (02:24)
In 1853 Levi Strauss cashed in on the California Gold Rush by coming up with a new, more durable garment. His patented, rivet-reinforced, blue denim pants with the wing stitching on the back pockets quickly became popular with miners.
Working Man's Pants (01:54)
Cowboys adopted Levi's, too. Their strength and durability became legendary. Other manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon. But rivets made Levi's unique. Levi added a lot number to the back label--501.
Celebrity Levi's Fans (02:00)
When Bruce Springsteen wore Levi's on the cover of Born in the USA, sales went up 20%. Celebrities have always helped Levi's sell jeans. Before rock stars it was movie stars. Levi's made its film debut on John Wayne.
Levi's as Fashion Statement (02:09)
When Marlon Brando wore them in The Wild Ones, jeans gained a "bad boy" reputation. Then James Dean turned jeans from work pants into a fashion statement. Levi's became the symbol of Baby Boomer rebellion.
Advertising Levi's (02:53)
Levi's developed a customer base who would wear nothing else. Their ever-new, ever-hip ad campaigns kept the company at the top of the jeans market for years.
New Styles, Old Favorite (01:59)
At the Levi Strauss design center in San Francisco ideas are born and trends are created. Today there are dozens of styles of Levi's, but the best seller remains--as it always has been--the 501.
Designer Jeans (01:55)
In the 1980s, Calvin Klein and other new brands hit the market. The competition was intense. Jeans had gone from functional to chic, and the glamorization of denim left Levi's behind. 501s now seemed old-fashioned.
Levi's Missteps (01:50)
Levi's thought designer jeans were just a fad. The company was complacent. Sales began to fall, and there was friction within the Strauss family.
In 1986 Levi came out with a new line of khakis, which saved the company. To cut costs, manufacturing was moved overseas. Levi's was one of the first multinationals to set up guidelines for working conditions in their factories.
The Levi's Archive (02:14)
The Levi's Archive was started in 1989 with the goal of rebuilding Levi's history. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed Levi's headquarters. The company that invented blue jeans didn't have a single pair of the originals.
Vintage Jeans (02:51)
Levi's historian isn't the only one looking for old jeans. Nostalgia drives the market. Jeans from the 1950s and 60s sell for $2500 a pair. World War II era jeans have unique features due to wartime rationing.
Distinguishing Marks (02:24)
Some old jeans sell for astronomical prices. Vintage clothing experts know the distinguishing marks of each era of Levi's.
Time for a Radical Change (03:02)
Levi's 501s have always been the standard against which other jeans are judged, the best selling jean of all time. But in the 2000s Levi began losing market share in another round of the designer jean war.
Reinventing Levi's (02:55)
Levi's now sells low-priced jeans through discount retailers. It sells contemporary styles with a vintage feel in upscale stores, and it sells dozens of mid-priced styles as well. The big buyers are the 18-25 crowd.
Levi's Stores (02:40)
At Levi's, fit is a priority. The company has retail stores around the world. Levi's challenge is to appeal to both the youth market and their original customer base, the baby boomers.
An American Story (02:20)
The new generation loves jeans, too. Levi's has persevered over five generations, changed and adapted, and maintained its status as an American icon. Levi's got the whole world wearing jeans.
Credits: Levi's: Sewing a Legend (00:21)
Credits: Levi's: Sewing a Legend
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