For the first time in history, Levi’s is no longer producing any of their iconic 501 jeans in America. According to an anonymous source working for the brand, Levi’s moved production of their reproduction sub-label, Levi’s Vintage Clothing, overseas to Bulgaria and Turkey. Previously, only washed and distressed models of the coveted LVC line were produced abroad, reserving their raw jeans exclusively for stateside production. Aside from a relatively brief run of their Levi’s Premium made-in-USA line which used some of the last of White Oak selvedge denim, LVC was the last remaining collection still making the historic jean in The United States.
Following the closure of Cone Mills’ White Oak plant in 2017, the jeans giant scrambled to find a denim mill replacement for their premium line of vintage reproduction jeans before finally making the switch to Kaihara Mills back in spring of 2019. American production for the 501 was waning piece by piece until the last straw broke the Two Horse Brand’s back apparently not long after the switch to Kaihara. At the time of the writing of this article, there were some USA-made versions of various LVC rigid 501s still in stock on the Levi’s website, but most have been discreetly placed to the side of the product pages while their overseas counterparts have been placed as the default fabric option.
The 501 was first created back in 1873 in the wake of the California Gold Rush and was instrumental in changing the fashion landscape. Blue jeans became shorthand for the Levi’s 501, and the revolutionary garment would illicit countless imitators. As if it needed any more validation, the 501 jean was cemented as Time‘s “fashion item of the 20th century”.
The 501 jean might still hold that title, but now, it will no longer bear the ‘Made in USA’ tag.