Second Sunrise Archive: Levi's 557 xx "Road Runners" Vest

Vintage Levi's 557 xx jacket modified to a biker vest.

Maker - Levi's
Era - 1962-66
Fabric - Cotton, 3x1 denim
Acquired - 13 Sept 2017 by Second Sunrise

Motorcycles have been synonymous with a cultural identity for a long time. The two wheeled machines tell a story about freedom, escape from society and the everyday life. The subculture attached to them has grown strong over the years and a feeling of affinity has always been synonymous with the culture.

A reason for this might be that young people who came home after the military services in WW2 found it difficult to adopt to the normal life and also felt a lack of the community that the services brought. As the culture of the Motorcycle Clubs was growing bigger in the middle of the 20th century some of the gangs became known for being rejects of society, and the word biker became synonymous with being an outlaw. In "The Wild Ones" from 1953 Marlon Brando plays this kind of character, and the movie is known as one of the first to depict American outlaw motorcycle gang violence. It became known to describe the American subcultures of the 40/50's and it's still an influence for a lot of people around the world who wear Levi's jeans, engineer boots and a black leather jackets; the iconic biker wardrobe.

This vest tells the story of how denim came to be the preferred fabric for those rebels. Originally, this has been a Levi's 557xx denim jacket (known as the Type 3 denim jacket) that was produced between 1962-1966. This model become popular in the 60s and up until today it's perhaps the most recognized denim jacket ever produced, and it hasn't changed much from the day it was first made. I always thought it was interesting that the Levi's version has a lot of similarities to the 101-J jacket made by Lee, that was first made in the mid 40's. Two decades later, Levi's made a similar jacket with a more contemporary look. 

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Levi's 557xx Jacket

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Back view.
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Levi's 557xx Jacket

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Front view.

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Levi's 557xx Label

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The paper label of the jacket. The 557 label had the size of 7,5 cm x 5,5 cm, on later versions of Levi's big E jackets the label was much smaller. The paper labels are known to come off with time and if you find a jacket that doesn't have the label intact the size of the stitches where the label used to be is a way of telling you how old the jacket is.
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Levi's 557 xx Detail

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Detail of the left front pocket.
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Levi's 557 xx Big E Red Tab

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The Levi's Big E Red Tab. It can be found on the Levi's garments produced from 1936 to 1971, when the text changed from "LEVI'S" to "Levi's". The capital E was change to a small "e" that has been the standard up until this day. The red tab on older garments was made of a viscose fabric that curled when the garment was washed, and reproductions usually have tabs made of polyester that stays flat. If you find a big E garment that has a straight red tab you should always take in consideration that it might be a reproduction.

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Levi's 557 xx Chain stitch detail

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On the front of the jacket we find the text "Crash Bob" chain-stitched onto two patches. The label is made of two layers of red and black wool felt and the text is made using a chain stitch machine. One can assume that the owner of this jacket got the nickname for being a reckless rider!

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Levi's 557 xx Biker Vest

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On the back of the vest there is a large chain-stitch patch, the kind of patch that shows that you're part of the Motorcycle Club. We can assume that this jacket was modified to be worn as a vest that could be worn over a leather jacket showing the patch when riding. As you can see someone has made a proper work, adding white, plastic-coated fabric around the edges where the sleeves and collar were cut off to prevent the fabric from fraying.

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Levi's 557 xx Chain Stitch Biker Patch

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This vest is now a part of our archive and we keep it as an inspirational piece. 

Want to read about more vintage? See last week's post Here!

 


1 comment

  • Wow so awesome denim jacket.

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