Olympics History

More than 40 Years of Levi’s® at the Olympics

Tracey Panek, LS&Co. Historian
Levi Strauss & Co.
July 29, 2021

In 1980 and 1984, Levi Strauss & Co. became the official outfitter for Team U.S.A. Here’s how the games unfolded when the Levi’s® brand served as the fabric of American athleticism.

1980 Olympics

U.S. athletes dressed in Levi’s® from head to toe to kick off the Winter Games at the Parade of Nations during the Opening Ceremonies at Lake Placid, New York. The Levi’s® attire, from jeans and striped sweaters to lined Levi’s® coats, was stylized in a Western motif, including cowboy hats and Levi’s® orange Tab boots.

Hockey was arguably the most memorable event at Lake Placid. It was nothing less than miraculous when the U.S. Hockey Team beat Russia to win gold. The winning team of U.S. college students and amateurs stunned the world with their 6-0-1 record and unforgettable 4-3 victory against the dominant Soviet Union in their next-to-last game. This was followed by a come-from-behind 4-2 win against Finland in the finals.

For Levi’s® fans, watching the Gold Medal Awards Ceremony was the best time to savor that success. The U.S. Hockey Team, dressed in Levi’s® royal blue velour suits, held up their arms in victory as the American flag rose above Soviet red and Finnish blue.

LS&Co. planned to clothe the American team at the 1980 summer Olympics in Moscow, but the United States’ boycott kept the athletes at home. Instead, LS&Co. outfitted all 550 athletes for a five-day celebration in Washington honoring the team. The company received six tickets for a White House dinner. Instead of passing them out to executives, chairman Walter Haas put the names of all U.S. employees into a hat and chose six people to attend the event. The winners went to the White House and met the athletes and President Jimmy Carter.

The festivities included a Congressional award ceremony for Team U.S.A. Athletes showed up for the event in Levi’s® apparel, receiving their Congressional medals while fully decked out in Levi’s® flannel and denim.

LS&Co.’s steadfast partnership with the U.S. Olympic team was particularly meaningful that summer as other sponsors had discontinued their support for the team when Carter announced America’s withdrawal from the games.

Then U.S. Olympic Committee President Robert Kane said, “Some of our benefactors did not stay with us as they might have had we gone to Moscow. Not only did Levi Strauss & Co. stay with us, but they did much more than they were expected to do.”

1984 Olympics

In 1984, LS&Co. returned as the official outfitter for Team U.S.A. during the summer and winter Olympics.

At the opening ceremony of the winter Olympics in February, Team U.S.A. marched into Sarajevo’s Kosovo Stadium fully decorated in Levi’s® flannel-lined jeans, sheepskin jackets and cowboy hats. All 119 members of Team U.S.A. were decorated in LS&Co. gear, which made up a 32-piece wardrobe created specifically for the games.

LS&Co. uniformed 800 U.S. athletes and 60,000 employees later that summer. We also outfitted participants in the 11,000-mile cross-country Olympic dash, during which runners carried the Olympic torch to the Los Angeles Coliseum. LS&Co. sponsored a portion of the torch run, a six-mile stretch that passed by Levi’s Plaza in San Francisco. LS&Co. employees ran this stretch of the relay while outfitted in Olympic Levi’s® gear.

We didn’t just partner with athletes and employees — we pulled fans into the outfitting process as well. Four million Americans cast their votes at retail stores across the country to pick their favorite Levi’s® Olympic uniforms. To involve the public further, LS&Co. created a “Home Team, U.S.A.” sweepstakes that allowed our consumers the opportunity to send personal messages of support to the U.S. Olympic team.

Through the years, we’re proud to not only been an Olympic outfitter, but also a partner to athletes and fans alike.