Levi’s is, without question, the 800-pound gorilla in the denim world. Their name is almost synonymous with the word jeans. For nearly the past 150 years, they’ve been clothing America’s blue-collars with high quality workwear. As such, their reproduction line, Levi’s Vintage Clothing, takes that history seriously when resurrecting items from the Levi’s archive for modern-day manufacturing.
This year, their focus has turned to bringing the hot rodders of the American southwest of the 1950s and 60s back to life. The hot rod movement developed after WWII as American’s turned the mechanical skills they learned in the war factories to beefing up their cars.
The clothes that came with them had military silhouettes — boxy and androgynous — but these harsh shapes were often offset by bright colors and deco patterns. We were able to talk to Miles Johnson, creative director of LVC and Levi’s Made and Crafted, about the story behind the line.
The 501 and white tee will always be an iconic look for us, but this one’s not all about the denim. We wanted to branch out into more unusual textures and patterns.
Johnson and his team culled through dozens of articles in the archive and thousands of period photos to design the pieces in this collection. They even sourced a boy’s bedroom wallpaper from the 50s for the space age pattern on a sportshirt.
Johnson and his team commissioned a series of monster truck paintings, airbrushed by pop artist Von Franco onto fifty LVC sweatshirts, to commemorate the release.
Also part of the Hot Rod collection are Levi’s original 518s aka “White Levi’s“. These were some of the first Levi’s jeans produced specifically as casual wear instead of work oriented and thus feature a slimmer fit, a much lighter cast denim, zip fly, and a lack of rivet reinforcement.
Johnson sticks to his guns on historical accuracy when rebuilding these pieces:
People have often said to us ‘that’s a great material but why don’t you make it in something more slimming?’ But that’s completely missing the point of what we do, we’re trying to recreate something from a specific time and altering the fit, materials, or construction would simply be anachronistic.
LVC also introduced a new year of 501. The 1937 model was the first to feature hidden rivet construction on the back pockets and remove suspender buttons from the waist and the last in their current line with a cinch-back.
It comes in a 10 Oz.. Cone Mills selvedge denim and still features the loose anti-fit of older models as well as single needle stitching on the back pocket arcs.
Johnson also revealed that LVC’s next target would be the Detroit autoworkers of the 1960s and 70s would drop for this upcoming autumn/winter collection. The line would be almost entirely made in USA (much of previous lines had been made in Italy) and will see a resurgence of Levi’s Orange Tab label. All of the Levi’s Hot Rod collection as well as the 1937 501 are currently available.
Stay tuned for our continuing Inspiration coverage with Antonio di Battista of Blue Blanket and Keith Hioco of Eat Dust up next!