The acidic smell coming from the oak barrels was pungent against the fresh February rain. I escaped the downpour inside a winery warehouse, where my guide for the day, Jeff Walter, led me to a free spot on the floor.
Slowly, he pulled out the small denim overalls tucked beneath his coat. “I found them in a barn near here,” he said. “The area is covered with barns, orchards, and vineyards.” The white patch on the back of the pants with its two horses immediately caught my eye. Judging from the 100-year old vineyard I saw driving into Lockeford, Calif., I wasn’t surprised that Jeff had discovered a century-old pair of Levi’s® overalls.
Seeing rare vintage Levi’s® garments never gets old, but it’s even better when you can experience the place in which they were originally worn. Lockeford is a rural farming community near Lodi — the city in California’s Central Valley cemented in music history by Creedence Clearwater Revival.
The children’s overalls, Lot 208, were featured in Levi Strauss & Co.’s 1910 catalog. The best feature? A mock button fly with a rivet at the base and a single metal button. There’s even a finished buttonhole.
These overalls were a “value” version of our 500 series. The pants look the same, but are made of lighter denim and less-expensive sundries. The button, for instance, is unbranded on the fly and, unlike the leather patch of our 501® jeans, the patch on these overalls is made of fabric.
The pants are in excellent shape, but are missing suspenders and attached metal fasteners. Thankfully, a comparison to a photo of a similar garment in the LS&Co. Archives allowed us to draw some conclusions.
The barn overalls came with a thrifty alteration. In the right-side buttonhole, a piece of shoelace with a metal aglet (end fastener) dangles down; presumably, it was used to hold the pants together. It’s a charming element that adds a bit more life to the overalls — you can even picture the tiny shoes where the lace might have been borrowed.
Jeff and I negotiate a deal, and I drive home beaming at the thought of our newest addition to the Archives – a testament to a bygone era.
A breakdown of the barnyard overalls:
- Children’s Lot 280 Overall
- Date: Approximately 1910s
- Mock button fly
- Two on each side of the waist
- One of the base of the button fly
- Back pocket rivets
- Suspender buttons
- Missing suspenders and metal fasteners
- Cloth patch with Two-Horse Trademark
- Waist measurement 18, Length measurement 13
- Shoelace piece with metal aglet hanging from the waist buttonhole
With the windshield wipers keeping time to my radio, I take in all the sites — from the fruit stands to the levees holding back the waters of the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta — that give this area its character; character also impacted by the clothing manufactured by Levi Strauss & Co. for almost a century and a half.
Be sure to keep up with the LS&Co. Archives and other cool LS&Co. heritage news, follow Tracey on Twitter, @TraceyPanek.