LS&Co. historian Tracey Panek is a bit unflappable when it comes to denim-related artifacts. It’s understandable, given that she oversees a collection of tens of thousands of them that includes everything from the world’s oldest pair to jeans worn by Bing Crosby, Beyoncé and a host of others.
It’s a rare pair of old jeans that can stop Tracey in her tracks, but that’s exactly what the New Nevada jeans did.
“For a historian, this was a once-in-a-career kind of find,” Tracey said.
Today, on the birthday of the blue jean, we’re excited to announce that we’ll be adding the pants to the Levi Strauss & Co. Archives.
So what makes them such a unique and important addition to our Archives?
“Despite being one of the oldest pairs of jeans in existence, the New Nevada jeans are in near-perfect condition,” Tracey said.
Except for wear marks and a few minor holes and tears, the pants, which date to around the 1880s, are pristine.
Have a look:
Levi’s President James “JC” Curleigh is equally passionate about this new acquisition: “We invented the blue jean over 140 years ago and this new ‘find’ is proof of our undeniable heritage and the durability and authenticity of the Levi’s® brand,” he said.
All The Juicy [Denimhead] Details
We’re able to estimate the age of the New Nevada jeans, which were found near a Nevada mining town, because the patent date — May 20, 1873 — is on the copper rivets. The patent date was removed from the rivets once the patent had expired in 1890.
In terms of style, the pants are very simple — a basic men’s work garment. And while they bear some resemblance to our iconic Levi’s® 501® jeans, the cut of the New Nevada is a bit different. The yoke is narrower, and the leather patch is in the middle of the waistband, rather than on the right side.
A few other design differences include:
- Sewn-on instead of shank-style buttons
- A ruler pocket on the left thigh
- Pocket bags made of denim, rather than traditional pocketing material
- Leather washers behind the rivets on the inside back pocket
- Watch pocket is sewn directly onto the waistband
The pants are made from 9 oz. denim purchased from the Amoskeag mill in Manchester, New Hampshire. Because the pants were made before synthetic indigo came into use, the denim is dyed with vegetable (plant) indigo. The pants were sewn in San Francisco at our factory that was south of Market Street.
Generations of pioneers have chosen Levi’s jeans — from the miners in the American West, like the fellow who likely wore our New Nevada jeans, to today’s Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. We’re thrilled to welcome this piece of denim history to our Archives!
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