Vintage Levi's 1967 505 Jeans
Maker - Levi's
Era - Late 60s
Material - 3x1 cotton twill denim
Acquired - by Second Sunrise 25/4 - 2018
First of all we wanted to say sorry for missing out on the weekly vintage blog post for quite some time. We were occupied by shop-keeping, book-keeping and book-writing so we had to choose our priorities and the weekly vintage blogging had to stand back for a while. Anyway, the garments in our archive are already several decades old so we figured waiting a couple of weeks to tell you about them wouldn't do much harm :)
BUT! Now we are back and we felt it was suitable to tell you the story of one of the most iconic jeans ever made, a garment that also happens to be the latest addition to our collection. This week we give you you the story of the Levi's 1967 505 jeans and we will also speculate in what makes these jeans popular, and why most Japanese brands today have their version of the '67 505 jeans in their collections side by side with a version of the famous '47 501 jeans!
It's hard to say if the 505 was intended to be the jeans made for the uprising counterculture of the late 60's or if it was just a coincidence that the model became synonymous with the youth of that time. We are talking about the Summer of Love and the time when an uprising counterculture spread over the world. It all started in San Fransisco, where at least 100 000 people gathered in the Haight-Ashbury district to to start a movement that was intended to make cultural and political changes. The Vietnam war had been going on for over a decade and that among other things was the reason for these mainly young hippes to gather and to start making a change on their own. So maybe it was just a coincidence that the San Fransisco clothing manufacture Levi's started making the 505 jeans in '67 but as the contemporary fit came to be worn by the youth of that era, this style of blue jeans proved to deserve their spot as one of the most iconic pair of jeans made up until today.
The jeans were made with a slightly lower waist and a slimmer leg than the already well known 501 jeans and the silhouette proved to be just right for the time when blue jeans was starting to become more popular than ever!
To mention just a few popular culture contexts where these jeans have played a major part we have the cover of the 1971 Rolling Stones album Sticky Fingers. The cover was made by artist Andy Warhol and it featured a picture of the crotch of a male wearing a pair of 505 jeans. It is still unsure who was pictured, but the model Joe Dallesandro who worked a lot with by Andy Warhol at the time has claimed that he is the one wearing the jeans on the picture. The original version of the album cover had a working zipper as you can see on the picture above. When the zip was pulled down you could open the fly to see a man wearing white briefs and the text "Andy Warhol This photograph may not be -- etc." The back of the cover features a picture of the back of the jeans. The cover eventually got complaints from dealers claiming that the zipper damaged the record when they were stacked for shipping and the problem was first solved by unzipping it slightly to the center of the record where damage would be minimized and on later versions the zipper was removed.
The 505 later showed up in 1976 as the jeans worn by New York based punk band The Ramones on their debut album and combining a pair of well worn Levi's jeans with a leather jacket has been a subcultural outfit ever since!
Debbie Harry, the lead singer in the New York based band Blondie was also famous for wearing a pair of well worn Levi's 505 jeans. She and other women of the time showed that the 505 fitted equally good on male and female bodys.
The pair that we have in our collection was bought on the Swedish auction site Tradera on the 25'th of April 2018. I have to say that it's extremely rare to find this kind of garments in Sweden since jeans didn't become common in Sweden until the 70's and Levi's wasn't the most popular brand to wear at the time. The previous owner was a man named Leif and he bought the jeans in 1968. At the time he decided to get two pairs of the same style and size. The jeans have only been washed once and newer worn and the Levi's paper label on the hip was removed prior to washing. Most likely this is because Leif thought it was better to remove the paper instead of risking that the paper would come off when washed and stain or damage the jeans. It's something he regretted at the time of deciding to sell the jeans. Anyway, out of the two pairs he got back in '68 and one pair was used for ten years but when the time came to start wearing these ones, he had out grown them so ever since they have been stored away for nostalgic reasons.
You can still see the stitches of where the patch was located on the waistband over the right back pocket.
The capital E or Big E, also the most famous detail when it comes to identifying vintage denim garments. This will be a small repetition for those of you who read my earlier blog post about the Big E so if you think you already know all there is to know about the red tab, feel free to jump to next picture!
The Red Tab was introduced in 1936 as a trade mark for identifying a pair of Levi's on a distance. You might think that this sounds like a branding exaggeration, because the most iconic way to identify a pair of Levis is by the so called arcuate stitch on the back pockets. However the design was not patented until 1947 so if you happen to find an old pair of Lee jeans or the very first jeans made by Wrangler it's likely thet they will have the same design on the back pockets that's synonymous with Levi's today. In order to distingue the brand from others a small red tab was attached to the back pocket in 1936 and I have to say that it goes very well together with the blue denim fabric! Somebody really made a good work when designing it. The so-called Big E era lasted until 1971 on both jeans, jackets and other garments. The text changed from "LEVI'S" to "Levi's" due to the fact that someone thought it's more polite to write a name with just a capital first letter and the capital E was change to a small "e" which has been the standard up until this day.
The top button and copper rivet has the same design as the ones used on 501 jeans of that time.
One of the key details of the 505 jeans were the use of a Gripper Zipper, a manufacture of zippers that started their business back in 1893. Levi's had used zipper flys earlier on their 1954 501 version but in the 60's they had gone back to using button flys for the 501 shrink-to-fit jeans. However, a zipper was used on the 505, their first pair of sanforized jeans. I suspect that it proved more suitable to use a zipper due to the minimum shrinkage on these jeans, as compared to where buttons was a better option for the 501 that had an estimated shrinkage of 10%. The shrink-to-fit era of 501 lasted up until '85 when sanforized fabrics became standard for the 501 fit as well.
For what I heard the 505 became very popular in short time, and I also heard that the 501 wasn't stocked by too many stores compared to the 505 that could be found everywhere. Im still not sure if it was the sanforized fabric that made the 505 a big success with the growing youth that preferred a slimmer silhouette or if the 505 was retailed at a lower price range than the 501's. If someone out there has information regarding Levi's pricing of that era I would be more than happy to hear what you know so please give us a comment below!
The coin pocket, previously known as the watch pocket on the first blue jeans made by Levi's. In this picture you can also see the curve of the hip, the 505 sure has some shape and the back rise is also higher than the front rise.
On the inside of the coin pocket we find a visible selvedge edge.
On the back of the top button we will also find the so called "V stitch". The V fastens the upper stitching of the waistband and it's a detail that was only used by Levi's back in the days. Today we see it used on a lot of brands and in my opinion adding it to a denim design is a pretty easy way to show that you understand the history of denim.
Printed on the reverse side of one of the pocket bags we find the the combination of numbers 136 019 3236 and Im not sure what the first numbers mean but Im pretty sure that the last four digits tells us that this is a W32 L36. Leif told me that he had bought the jeans as long as possible back in 1968 because he intended to cuff them high in line with the fashion of the time.
Running down each side of the leg we find the selvage edges. This is the edges of the fabric that run along the outer seam of the jeans, a convenient way of cutting out the pieces from the denim since the outer seam of the jeans is modeled as a straight line. As you can see the 505 has a pink line instead of the traditional red line synonymous with Levi's. This might have been a way for Cone Mills, the weaver of the fabrics, to make a difference between the sanforized and the shrink-to-fit fabric because they made both for Levi's. It was probably convenient in cutting and sewing to also be able to see the difference between the fabrics.
It is also common to see Vintage Big E 505 jeans that doesn't have selvage and I think the reason behind this is that this model was created in a time when wider looms was starting to become more popular. We actually have a roll of fabric in our store that was used by Levi's in the 60's and it has the same pink line as this fabric! We know that it's a Levi's fabric because it was wrapped in paper when we got it and stamped with Levi's logos and the date of shipping when it was wrapped in the 60's. It was left unpacked until me and my brother found it on Ebay ten years ago! This roll measures 46,5 inches wide instead of the shorter narrow loomed fabric that usually measures 28 inches. The extra width allows the cutter to squeeze in one more leg pattern piece, and that piece will come out without a selvage edge.
These jeans also happens to be the perfect size for Kerstin so we wanted to share some fit pics!
As you can see, the jeans have a timeless look and they might just be what one would be looking for when it comes to wearing a pair of classic jeans.
So what is the reason for the 505 jeans to influence a lot of jeans made today? Most likely it's a combination of a great fit spiced up with a rich history synonymous with the uprising counterculture of the 60's, and the fact that it's a pair of jeans made by what many people would call the mother of brands when it comes to making blue jeans. Wearing a pair of classical Levi's jeans is a way to take part of that story. The design from the middle of the last century simply looks just as good worn today as it did when first made!
If you like the look of these jeans we would like to recommend the 505 version made by TCB that we have in store right now. We compared the jeans, both the fit and the fabric, and we have to say that TCB did a great job when it comes to reproducing this icon. You will find them here!
If you want to read more about vintage Levi's garments we would recommend you to have a look at our last blog post, where we presented a Levi's Bay Meadows t-shirt!