The History Behind Button Your Fly

May 2018

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You love the shirt. Its big, block letters. Those bold colors. But where did Button Your Fly come from? We’ve got the answer for you. In 1954 we introduced the 501Z, a 501® jean with a zipper instead of a button fly. After its debut, a debate emerged between two camps of denim enthusiasts: loyalists devoted to the original button fly vs. those who loved the convenience and modernity of the zipper. Fast-forward to 1990, when Levi’s® officially took the debate public. In an effort to promote the benefits of button-fly jeans, Levi’s® asked fans to call a toll-free number and explain what they did in their 501® Originals for a chance to be featured in a commercial directed by Spike Lee. Over 800,000 people called in with their stories. The commercials featured cave spelunkers, dairy farmers and a cartoonist. Spike Lee even joined in and ran with the bulls in his button-fly jeans. After the commercials aired, Button Your Fly made its way onto t-shirts and those bold, block letters went down in Levi’s® history as a calling card for the ‘90s.

spike lee holding a tee shirt that says button your fly

To celebrate the 20th anniversary, Spike visited Levi’s® HQ. Here he is with Levi’s® Historian Tracey Panek checking out the vintage shirts and reliving a few Button Your Fly memories. Get in on the conversation and shop the latest 501® Day Collection.

men wearing tee shirts on a stoop