I started valuing clothes in the sixth grade when my family moved from the city of Detroit to an affluent suburb in Oakland County. Clothing became of the utmost importance when a girl asked me how many pairs of Levi’s I had. Levi’s? I remembered an ad for them on tv, but what difference did pants make? I guess pants were important though. My navy Sears chorduroys were a good fake for Levi’s, and when I wore them I could tell more kids talked to me, the new girl from Detroit.
When we moved, my two older sisters were in different schools. Dianne was four years older than me and in high school, and Sue was two years my senior and in junior high. They noticed it too. Everyone sported Levi’s, whether they be blue denim or one of a plethora of hues in corduroy. We then begged my mother to take us shopping for Levi’s. But where did you get these jeans? Not at Sears or Hudsons, and it was so long ago that the Gap was not in existence. Like a great mom, though, she drove us to the only two stores that sold Levi’s. Off we went to the quaint town of Birmingham and the shops Now and Then and…boy, I can’t remember the other store’s name now, but that’s not really important.
My first Levi’s were cords as we called corduroy back then. One pair was a nutty brown like a pecan and the other was a rich, evergreen and each had a bright orange tag attached to the right rear pocket. When I put these pants on, I was cool. They swished back and forth roughly as I walked and my legs rubbed. I sounded like the cool kids, but then I had to get the right kind of top to go with my 5-pocket, boot-legged jeans. Thick wool winter sweaters were popular in Michigan along with any type of shirt that had an alligator insignia over its left chest.
Now, I don’t remember the number associated with my original Levi’s. I don’t think they were 501s, but I do know they were size W 26 (waist) and L 30 (length). This size changed overtime to keep up with my growing body and so did the cut and flare to keep up with society’s fads. I went through numerous pairs of straight- and boot-leg jeans but never big bells.
When thinking about today, Levi’s are still some of my favorite jeans. In fact if you were to open the doors to my closet, you would find two pairs: one low-rider, dark denim, skinny jeans with a hole in the right knee and another denim pair with a relaxed fit and boot cut. And just like the original Levi’s that were patented by two immigrants in 1873, both have metal rivets, and both sport red tags on their right back pockets, which was introduced in 1936 to identify authentic Levi garments.