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HISTORY OF LEVI’S®

From The Archives: That California Lifestyle

June 26, 2020

From day one, Levi’s® has been a California company. Over the years, that’s meant miners, hippies, cowboys and bikers — along with sun, sand and bonfires on the beach. If you’re in need of a virtual vacation, check out these pieces we pulled from the archives. They’ll take you back to a couple of key moments when we shared our California lifestyle with the rest of the world.

1970s black and white surfboard photo with white jeans

LEVI’S® CALIFORNIANS

It’s finally beach season — even if we’re not actually, you know, going to the beach. For a vicarious trip to the sandy shore, check out these kids from the 1960s, posted up with their surfboards on the West Coast.

They’re all wearing Levi’s® Californians, a line of twill pants designed for casual wear. Levi’s® Californians came in 12 colors — but notably not in our flagship indigo. Levi’s® Californians were marketed for a younger demographic. Everything about these light-washed pants, including this photo, was made to showcase the California lifestyle.

Even today, the West Coast remains more casual than the East Coast — rumors abound that some New Yorkers still wear suits and ties! — but in the ’60s the difference was stark. We have a real letter in our Archives from a mother who was deeply concerned about students wearing “dungarees” to school. Nevertheless, with Levi’s® Californians, we set out to export the Golden State to classrooms throughout the country. We think it worked out just fine.

Hawaiian WWII Vintage Shirt

The Hawaiian Shirt

Nothing says sunburn, sand, and steak on the grill quite like a Hawaiian Shirt. It’s a perfect party top, an ageless wonder worn by America’s pinkest tourists, lamest dads and suavest private investigators.

Levi’s® started selling these pieces after World War II as the popularity of the shirts spread throughout the United States when soldiers stationed in Hawaii returned home. With time, wearing one became a way to show national pride — particularly while enjoying a piña colada. 

Close Up of Vintage Hawaiian WWII Levis Shirt Tag

Though inspired by South Pacific fashion, these shirts were originally produced by Levi’s® as part of a line called Levi Strauss Sportswear of California. (Sportswear meaning leisure, not actual sports.) Spun from fine rayon, they were light and breathable, and equally beloved for their breezy comfort and their pool-party personality. 

We still love Hawaiian Shirts and think they’ll remain in style this summer and every summer. Their tropical cousin, the Cubano, is also here to stay.

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