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A Rough Guide To Levi’s 501 Vintage Jeans – 1947 to 1966

In honor of July 4th, what could be more fitting than a rundown on the most influential years of America’s favourite denim. Following our previous histories of the Levi’s 501, we’ll pick up the story in 1947 and move through to 1966.

1947 Model

The 1947 edition was a major changing point in the history of the 501. This model was the first produced after WWII, resulting in the return of many features lost during the wartime production cutbacks, including the back pocket arcuates and watch pocket rivets.

The fit was slimmed down dramatically to appeal to the new and emerging middle class while the 12 oz Cone Mills red-line selvedge denim was retained, as was the red “E” tab which had become a trademark of the Levi’s company.

Details

  • Denim: 12 oz Cone Mills Red Selvedge denim (14 oz after washing)
  • Fit: Classic slim fit with straight leg
  • Two back pockets
  • Double needle arcuate
  • Button fly
  • Belt Loops
  • “E” Red Tab

Photos (Courtesy of Levi’s Vintage Clothing)

A Rough Guide To Levi's 501 Vintage Jeans - 1947 to 1966

A Rough Guide To Levi's 501 Vintage Jeans - 1947 to 1966

A Rough Guide To Levi's 501 Vintage Jeans - 1947 to 1966

1954 Model

Interestingly, the 1954 Levi’s 501 was the first edition to be officially released on the East Coast of the United States, as until this time they’d been a West Coast only phenomenon. To many East Coasters the button-fly work pant was a revelation, which brought about a second version, the 1954 501Z, which featured a zip-fly. This was the main change in features for the 1954 iteration – the non-zippered version was different from the 1944 only in the cut of the denim as the fit was tapered down further.

Details

  • Denim: 12 oz Cone Mills Red Selvedge denim (14 oz after washing)
  • Fit: Narrow Tapered Legs
  • Two back pockets with covered rivets
  • Double needle arcuate
  • Zip fly
  • Belt Loops
  • “E” Red Tab

Photos (Courtesy of Levi’s Vintage Clothing)

A Rough Guide To Levi's 501 Vintage Jeans - 1947 to 1966

A Rough Guide To Levi's 501 Vintage Jeans - 1947 to 1966

A Rough Guide To Levi's 501 Vintage Jeans - 1947 to 1966

A Rough Guide To Levi's 501 Vintage Jeans - 1947 to 1966

A Rough Guide To Levi's 501 Vintage Jeans - 1947 to 1966

1955 Model

The 1955 was a turn-about from the 1954 version, as again the main change was in fit, however, this time the change went in the opposite direction. While the 1954 had a slimmer-fitting tapered leg, the 1955 had an anti-fit waist and a much wider, straighter leg.

The silhouette was far boxier, reaching back in time to it’s early 1890’s compatriots. A zip-flied version was also made available, but the button fly was the more generally-accepted version of the pant.

Details

  • Denim: 12 oz Cone Mills Red-Line Selvedge denim (14 oz after washing)
  • Fit: Straight leg
  • Two back pockets
  • Double needle arcuate
  • Button fly
  • Belt Loops
  • “E” Red Tab

Photos (Courtesy of Levi’s Vintage Clothing)

A Rough Guide To Levi's 501 Vintage Jeans - 1947 to 1966

A Rough Guide To Levi's 501 Vintage Jeans - 1947 to 1966

A Rough Guide To Levi's 501 Vintage Jeans - 1947 to 1966

A Rough Guide To Levi's 501 Vintage Jeans - 1947 to 1966

1966 Model

This brings us to the final stop on our tour of the Levi’s 501 tour, the 1966 edition where a number of changes were rung in. This was the first version to properly solve the problem of scratched furniture that had been brought about by the back pocket rivets of the earlier editions.

Even covered rivets eventually wore through the denim covering and tore up chairs and couches. The 1966 edition solved this with bartacking the pockets rather than using rivets, which maintained the structural integrity while removing the cause of the furniture destruction.

The fit was again slimmed down and the tapered leg was reinstated.This was also the final edition of the big “E” tab, as tabs in future editions of the 501 would read Levi’s rather than LEVI’S.

Details

  • Denim: 12 oz Cone Mills red-line selvedge denim (14 oz after washing)
  • Fit: Tapered Leg
  • Two back pockets with bar tacks rather than covered rivets
  • Double needle arcuate
  • Button fly
  • Belt loops
  • Big ‘E’ Red Tab

Photos (Courtesy of Levi’s Vintage Clothing)

A Rough Guide To Levi's 501 Vintage Jeans - 1947 to 1966

A Rough Guide To Levi's 501 Vintage Jeans - 1947 to 1966

A Rough Guide To Levi's 501 Vintage Jeans - 1947 to 1966

A Rough Guide To Levi's 501 Vintage Jeans - 1947 to 1966

Additional Resources

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– Connor

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