The Levi’s® 501® jeans have remained at the forefront of the style zeitgeist throughout various decades and for good reason. Very rarely does the fashion world see a piece that has remained so relevant, seamlessly fitting into everyone’s closet regardless of time. Fused with the sterling craftsmanship and quality that the brand prides itself on, it is no wonder the jeans are beloved by all, from streetwear fans to traditional denim heads. As for how it looks? Its tasteful slim-straight silhouette fits all body types and exudes simplicity with a splash of youthful energy.
In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the iconic Levi’s® 501® jeans, Levi’s® has officially debuted an exclusive year-long campaign to look back at one of the most enduring icons of global style. Titled The Greatest Story Ever Worn, the campaign explores the countless historical, cultural and personal moments from the birth of the silhouette to what we know of the jeans today. Referencing house archives—as well as treasured memories from customers both young and old—the campaign presents the 501® jeans as an ever-expanding narrative, an accumulation of stories from fans who have owned a pair.
“When I see the jean and think of its history—that it has not changed much over the years—I know people are confident in them as a piece of clothing.”
The unveiling of this campaign came after a two-year process of brainstorming and execution. Levi’s® Vice President in Global Brand Marketing Chris Jackman, who helmed the project, shares: “The eureka moment came after talking to the product designers and our historian Tracey. Our creative partners leaned in and developed a strategic, compelling campaign that does justice to the 501®, Levi’s® and our fans.” He proceeds to share what makes this campaign stand out amongst other brand campaigns, affirming: “We looked at our advertising over the years and we do believe that nobody tells a story like Levi’s® tells a story.
Highlighting the campaign are three short films produced by Levi’s®, each telling a different story. “We looked over our archives, spoke with Levi’s teams and organised the stories, sorting out the best to put out to the world,” shares Jackman. “The sheer entertainment of it, it felt unbelievable to my team and I. These three films we shortlisted felt like they would grab people’s attention, due to the near-fiction nature of them.”
The first film, titled Precious Cargo, shares the tale of how the 501® jeans made their way to Kingston, Jamaica in the ’70s. Through the rich cultures and traditions present in the country, the jeans were evidently adapted by the natives. Directed by accredited filmmaker Melina Matsoukas and shot by academy award nominated cinematographer Bradford Young, the film sees an explosion of rhythm and soul as well as an exploration of the influence the Caribbean has had on Levi’s®. Jackman elaborates on the beauty behind the film: “I love how it shares that Jamaica took our product and put their own spin on it, which was then exported to the rest of the world. That two-way conversation between various cultures resonated with me.”
The second film—directed by Danish director and photographer Martin de Thurah—is set in a frosty Georgian winter, and depicts a farmer’s son who trades in the family’s bellcow for a pair of Levi’s® 501®s. Titled Fair Exchange, the tranquil cinematography highlights a human’s natural inclination to dream big, and how the trademark pair of jeans is a beacon for hope and aspirations.
Legends Never Die
Lastly, the film Legends Never Die relays the message that the 501®s are the only pair of jeans a person needs in their wardrobe and that they just might build a spiritual connection with the one that they own. Also shot by Thurah, the film embodies the collective love shared by diehard fans. Tying these campaigns together, Jackman highlights the key messages behind each of them: “We wanted to stay true to the sheer humanity of these stories no matter what and to tell it in the most beautiful way possible. I want viewers and fans to be entertained and ultimately to love the products they have like never before.”
“We wanted to stay true to the sheer humanity of these stories no matter what and to tell it in the most beautiful way possible.”
When asked what the 501® jeans signify to him personally, Jackman shares: “Confidence. When I see the jean and think of its history—that it has not changed much over the years—I know people are confident in them as a piece of clothing. When I see people in them, I instantly feel as if they’re presenting themselves in a confident way.
In recent years, it’s no surprise that even more celebrities and style aficionados worldwide have adopted various styles of the 501®s. With the Levi’s® 501®s foraying into reimagined cuts and fabric compositions, this signifies a long road ahead for the already well-loved pair of jeans. Shares Jackman excitably: “All the way back in the early 90s when I was a teenager, the button-fly campaign that was directed by Spike Lee stands out to me, for its cultural relevance to date. Being exposed to that when I was young brought a level of emotional tie to me.” He also mentions Beyonce’s Coachella performance a few years back, when the Pop-R&B sensation appeared on stage rocking a pair of Levi’s® 501®s cut-offs.
“Innovation is a part of that history and our design team will continue to ensure the 501® stays a in 501® its purity.”
As for what’s next up for this timeless silhouette, Jackman speaks to staying true to its origins. “For me, the 501® have to stay true to what they are: fearless and stylish. And it will be the case, our amazing design team will continue to ensure the 501®s stays a 501®s in its purity.” In the meantime, join the celebrations and discover The Greatest Story Ever Worn on Levi’s® official website here.