<
Trending / May 2021

Levi’s® 501 Originals: Through the Decades: 1950s – 1990s

Levi's jeans hanging next to one another

The story of the Levi’s® 501® is not just about enduring style. It’s a throwback to the days when things were built to last, and if you look back, the Levi’s® 501® has been right there during every important era of history, worn by everyone from civil rights activists to musical icons. It’s been the chosen uniform of those looking to express themselves and let their originality shine, and as we find ourselves in a time defined by change, one thing remains the same: the 501®’s timeless appeal.

A vintage photo of Levi's Jeans

1950s - 1960s: From Brando to Woodstock

In the 1950s, the Levi’s® 501® became a uniform for the teenage rebel, which was in large part a Hollywood creation thanks to actors like Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe who brought them into the pop cultural consciousness. As the ‘50s gave way to the ‘60s, the Levi’s® 501® was embraced by all manners of counter cultural figures. Bikers, rock ’n’ roll musicans, doo-wop crooners, Beat poets, Greenwich Village artists. If you needed something to look cool in, the 501® was it.

LEARN MORE ABOUT LEVI’S® & 1950s-1960s

SHOP 501® JEANS

A collage of photos featuring old levi's magazine ads and black and white photos of actors wearing Levi jeans

[Photo Credit: Marlon Brando’s personality rights, publicity rights, and trademarks containing his name are the property of Brando Enterprises LP. Represented exclusively by Greenlight. They are used with permission.]

Debbie Hell wearing 501 jeans

1970s - 1980s: Streamlined and DIY

If the 1960s painted with a paint brush, the 1970s did it with a magic marker. The emergence of new music genres like punk and hip hop in the mid-1970s took the experimentation of the “turn on, tune in, and drop out” era and democratized it. For the Levi’s® 501®, this meant a move away from the maximalism of flaring, fringe, and psychedelic colors and a move towards the fitted, washed out, worn out—and in many cases torn up—look of icons of the time like Patti Smith and her downtown cohort. It was the era of DIY, do what you want, perfection through imperfection. What began as a statement of rebellion in the 1950s, became the architecture of rebellion in the 1970s and ‘80s. The 501® was the canvas on which the young declared their intentions, something the at still rings true today.

LEARN MORE ABOUT LEVI’S® & 1970s-1980s 

SHOP 501® JEANS

Three vintage photos of men wearing Levi's
A photo of Cindy Crawford wearing 501 jeans

1990s: Past is Prologue

While the 501® achieved its iconic status decades before, no era’s style was defined by the 501® quite like the 1990s. Everyone from every corner of the cultural landscape embraced its rugged simplicity and casual cool. Think the endlessly celebrated and copied style of ‘90s Winona Ryder  that today’s icons are still taking notes from. The 90s may have given us the purest expression of what makes the Levi’s® 501® so special. A statement, a canvas, a go-to, but also a security blanket. A favorite pair of jeans that you throw on whenever you need to feel both physically and emotionally comfortable. One of the few items in your closet that you can buy brand new or vintage, and will in both cases look better with age.

LEARN MORE ABOUT LEVI’S® & 1990s

SHOP 501® JEANS

Related Articles