Our Fab Favorites: 1880s-Era Waist Overalls

Levi Strauss & Co.
October 18, 2018

Our Fab Favorites asks LS&Co. insiders for the low-down on their top pieces in the Levi Strauss & Co. Archives. 

I recently met up with Paul O’Neill, Design Director, Levi’s® Vintage Clothing, to ask about his favorite piece from our Archives. It is no surprise that someone who designs for LVC would reach way back. Paul’s favorite is a pair of waist overalls from the 1880s that’s missing a leg, but the rest has been extensively patched and repaired.

“Looking at a pair of overalls like this, it’s fascinating to imagine what led them to this state of disrepair,” Paul said. “As with all the pieces in the Archives, I wish they could tell me their story.”

One of the oldest pieces, these overalls are essentially a 501® produced before we had the lot number (which came about around 1890). Paul found inspiration in the fabric, bringing it to the Cone Mills White Oak plant in Greensboro, North Carolina to reproduce it. It turned out to be the last LVC fabric developed at the White Oak plant before it closed in 2017.

With his role designing for LVC, Paul is a bit of a regular here in the Archives.

“The Archives for me is a research lab where I get to study small details, and cross reference garments and catalogues. And through this detective work we unlock information from the history of our brand,” Paul said. “I use the Archives every season as a reference point to the collection. Once I decide on the seasonal theme it’s my first port of call. History is everything so without the Archive my job would be near impossible.”

Want to keep up with the LS&Co. Archives and other cool LS&Co. heritage news? Follow Tracey on Twitter, @TraceyPanek, and stay tuned to Unzipped!