Second Sunrise Archive: 1960's Wrangler Blue Bell 13MWZ Jeans

1960's Wrangler Blue Bell 13MWZ "Cowboy Cut" Jeans.

Maker - Wrangler Blue Bell
Era - Early 60s
Material - 3x1 Left hand cotton denim 

Acquired - by Hampus Luhanko October 3,  2007

This week we felt it was about time to look at a pair of jeans with some heavy wear. Wearing heavily worn jeans kind of makes us think about spring and summer, which can be much needed right now! 

This pair of Wrangler Blue Bell jeans actually belongs to my brother Hampus but he has been kind enough to leave them in our store for a while for us to use as reference and inspiration for our mending projects. 

The short story of Wrangler is that the brand started out back in 1919 as a work wear manufacturer know as Blue Bell. The brand is based in Greensboro, North Carolina and at this time it was a place well known in America as the center of the textile industry. Some of you might know that this is the region where Cone Mills were producing their fabrics up until recently, so in other words it's a region that has a long history when it comes to telling the story of American workwear.

In 1943 Blue Bell acquired another denim manufacturer named Casey Jones Company and with the purchase they also got the rights to a rarely used name under the Casey Jones Company. The name was "Wrangler".

In 1947 Blue Bell released their new line of clothes. They teamed up with the famous Rodeo designer Rodeo Ben to make a line of clothes intended for the Cowboy lifestyle and the Rodeo arena! According to the legend, the employees of Blue Bell were invited to make a vote of what the new line was going to be named and Wrangler was the winning bet. With it's new logo, the text Wrangler spelled out with a lasso, the brand quickly became the favorite brand amongst the cowboys. One of the reasons is most likely that the brand made a good work on marketing with sponsor agreements to Rodeo stars such as Jim Shoulders, who came to win a total of 16 world championships! If I remember correctly, I believe that Jim Shoulders still holds the record of the longest sponsorship agreement and it's for using Wrangler clothes, started out in 1948 and I believe he was still sponsored at the time of his death in 2007.

Anyway! This pair was acquired on an Ebay auction and we were told by the seller that the jeans had been worn by her grand father, "A true North Dakota Cowboy" Living in Amidon, North Dakota. He was wearing Wrangler jeans when working in the saddle and he liked them best when they were worn out and hardly wearable, so his wife made sure to repair them so they could be worn for as long as possible!

Vintage Wrangle 13MWZ jeans

As you can see these jeans have been used a lot, most likely by someone who loved them. The front thighs have been patched from the inside using patches that start below the front pockets and reach all the way down below the knee. 

Vintage Wrangler 13MWZ jeans

In this picture you can see some of the details that Rodeo Ben put behind the design process of the jeans! Seven belt loops were used (The standard at the time was five) and the idea behind it was that the belt would stay in place properly.  A leather belt could also be protective for the kidneys, a great feature if one was riding the Rodeo arena! Im not sure if there is an actual medical research behind it, I suspect that one would do better wearing a wider belt like the ones used by weightlifters and bikers back in the mid 20th century.

The center belt loop is set just of center and this phenomenon is referred to as "off set belt loop". The reason for this is usually that the bartack machine fastening the belt loops to the garments had a hard time getting through all the layers of the folded center seam. 

Vintage Wrangler 13MWZ jeans

The back pockets has the shape of a "W" on stitched onto each pocket ,and it is said to stand for "Western Wear". You can also see that the pockets have a vertical double needle blue stitch in the lower part of the pockets. These seams hold up the lining of the pockets. It was common that jeans brands lined the lower part of the pockets using the same white cotton fabric used for the pocket bags to give the back pockets som extra wear.

The right back pocket also has a darker shadow in the size of approximately 8 x 3,5 cm and this is the spot were the Wrangler Blue Bell logo has been. Rodeo Ben decided to place it on the top of the back pocket, making it visible even when you wore a belt and also to make the jeans different from other brands on the market. The branding was originally a patch made of leather but was changed to a plastic patch due to the fact that the leather could react with the heat and the saddle, leaving marks on the saddle. This version from the 60s had the plastic version and these ones often come loose after wear and washes, one of the downsides of having a logo on the center of your ass!

Vintage Wrangler 13MJZ jeans

The rivets were made with a dome shape in order to be gentle on the saddle, and as you can see Rode Ben also decided to change the direction of the fold of the seam of the yoke, making the edge goes downwards instead of upwards  which was more common on other brands. It is said that this detail was made to serve as a stop to prevent a wallet from slipping out of the pocket. It also makes it easier for the hand to slip down and reach stuff in the pocket.

In this picture you can also see that the crotch has been hand mended with another piece of denim fabric. The darker blue shade on the patch comes from a pocket that has been removed from the fabric prior to repair. On the inside of the jeans one can see that it has been a rather large, rounded pocket, most likely the back pocket on a bib overall and one can still se the bartacked corner where the pockets edge used to be.
Use one worn out garment to save the life of another worn out garment, that has been the way of extending the life of workwear during the late 19th century up to the mid 20th century. 

Vintage Wrangler 13MWZ jeans

On the inside of the fly we find the yellow Wrangler Blue Bell label, letting us know that these jeans are Sanforized. In other words, a method of stretching, shrinking and fixing the woven cloth in both length and width before cutting has been used, preventing the cotton fabric from shrinking when washed. This means that you could expect the fabric to shrink a maximum of 1% when washed, making it easier to try out a size that fits right from the shelf. The label of these jeans was printed and not woven as the earlier versions were. The Blue Bell logo was later removed and the brand became known just as Wrangler. 

Vintage Wrangler 13MWZ jeans

The zipper front, synonymous with the 13MWZ model where "Z" stands for Zipper.

Vintage Wrangle 11MWZ jeans

Close up of the Gripper Zipper.

Vintage Wrangler 13MWZ jeans

The top button with a red Wrangler rope logo on a silver button. These were used in the 60's, and according to me one of the most beautiful buttons used by Wrangler.

Vintage Wrangler 13MWZ jeans

Another neat detail designed by Rodeo Ben was the shape of the coin pocket. It is made to sink in to the pocket facing and not disturb the hand when you use the front pocket and the opening of the pocket is just beneath the waistband, protecting whatever you store in it from falling out. The rounded seam at the bottom of the coin pocket is also shaped in order to make it easier for the index finger to reach whats inside. Its's all these small, simple and smart details that makes Wrangler jeans something special and when it comes to the fit I would say that the vintage ones from the mid 20th century fits just perfect, there is something classical with them that makes them contemporary.  

Vintage Wrangler 13MJZ jeans

The right leg knee has been mended by hand and the wear-marks on the patch tells us that it has been the back of the knee on another pair of jeans before it became a patch. 

Vintage Wrangler 13MJZ jeans

The left leg has similar repairs as the right one. Another detail with most vintage Wrangler jeans is the folded seams on both sides of the legs. You do see selvage versions of Wrangler but it is not as common. The folded seam on the inside leg is supposed to be more comfortable when riding, and combined with a "U" shaped crotch it is one of the reasons that Wranglers have been favored by cowboys ever since. Since I haven't tried riding in them I cant really say if it makes that big of a difference, but if you know, please tell us!

What makes a difference however is the fact that Wrangler uses left hand twill fabric, meaning that the diagonal twill pattern rises to the left as seen from this view. What I have learned about wearing left hand fabric compared to right hand is that they will get softer faster and feel somewhat stretchy compared to a right hand fabric. My thoughts on the subject are that this has to do with the fact that the yarn used is spun in the same direction no matter if it will be woven into a right hand or a left hand weave, and that a left hand weave makes the threads unwind slightly, while a right hand weave tightens the threads twist slightly. I suspect that this is also one of the reasons for left hand fabrics to fade into a brighter shade than the right hands, due to the fact that the indigo molecules will rub off easier in a low tension fabric. These are just my speculations, so please don't take them for facts. 

Vintage Wrangler 13MWZ jeans

Mendings close to the crotch area.

Vintage Wrangler 13MJZ jeans

The inside of the back of the jeans. Here, its easier to see the sizes of the patches that has been used and also the hand made stitches that stop the pants from falling apart. 

We hope you enjoyed the reading about these well worn jeans and if you think we got something wrong or if you know something that we missed please share your thoughts in the comments!

Last weeks "from the archives" blog post was quite the opposite from this pair of jeans. When we wrote about a New without tags Levis Denim Family women's jacket and if you would like to read that story you will find the blog post here.


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  • Hi Douglas, It’s SingleMaltRick here. I Live in LA. , but my Distillery is in Denver. We are launching a new Brand called Blue Peak and I’m trying to get in touch with the Marketing Division of Wrangler and would love to have a Denim Historian and a Whiskey Historian ( that’s Me) to introduce Consumers to Whiskey & Denim through Blue Bell & Blue Peak Launch. But I’m finding difficulty getting in touch with them.. can you help me out ? Thank you

    rick edwards
  • Hi Metthew! Thanks for the kind words. I also love vintage leather jackets, unfortunately I don’t have a vintage Cafe Racer in my archive but I do have a vintage Levis leather jacket that we hopefully can wright about in the future :)

    Best wishes!


    Douglas Luhanko

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