A good pair of jeans feels as integral to the aesthetic of Americana as a cowboy hat; America (and the entire world over) has Levi’s to thank for the contribution of blue jeans to the global market, and for the ripple effect of their unparalleled success.
Global Success, Community Focus
Levi Strauss & Co. (known colloquially as Levi’s), is a behemoth in the blue jeans industry. With headquarters in San Francisco, Brussels, and Singapore, Levi’s employs more than 14,000 people worldwide. They manufacture all sorts of denim products, with the most famous obviously being their jeans.
Despite this massive success, Levi’s maintains an air of social responsibility through a series of impact campaigns. From donating products to reinvesting profits into underprivileged communities, Levi’s takes an expressed interest in bolstering others from the shoulders of its success.
The Birth of The Blue Jean
In the midst of the Gold Rush, Levi Strauss emigrated to San Francisco from New York in 1853 to open a dry goods business in the West. With the help of a tailor named Jacob Davis, Strauss sought an answer to the apparent need for sturdy work pants. In turn, 20 years after he arrived in San Francisco, Levi Strauss & Co. received a U.S. patent for the first pair of blue jeans. These pants were intended for working men, and that intention didn’t begin to waver for another 60 years.
Levi’s unveiled the first ever line of women’s jeans in 1934. In one sense, this was a shrewd business move as women in the West genuinely needed their own pair of sturdy work pants. On the other hand, this was seen as an uncouth maneuver given the fact that pants weren’t considered appropriate dress for women until several decades later. Nonetheless, Levi’s recognized that women were borrowing jeans from the men in their lives, and took steps to create a product that would fill that need.
The decision to release a line of jeans for women speaks to a company culture that has always pushed for progress, and never shied away from innovation, even in a time when progress wasn’t necessarily considered positive.
It was, perhaps, this drive for innovation that first led Levi’s to break out of the blue jean industry. In 1986, the company began manufacturing dockers—a professional khaki pant that lacked the same rigidity of traditional workwear. Dockers were marketed toward young professionals who weren’t interested in ascribing to the same dress codes of generations past.
From there, Levi’s has since moved into creating denim jackets, skirts, shorts, shirts, and virtually any other apparel item you can imagine. Today, the classic Levi’s logo resonates with a younger crowd as a symbol of inclusivity and progress—plus, a classic like this never goes out of style. It is, perhaps, its historical significance that chiefly recommends Levi’s in this contemporary setting.
Competition Creeping in
Though no new brand can ever detract from the fact that Levi’s made jeans first, they can take a slice of the market share.
Some of the biggest Levi’s competitors globally are:
- Tommy Hilfiger
Much like Levi Strauss, Henry David Lee started out supplying groceries and dry goods in 1889. For many years, the Lees brand focused all of its energy on overalls, until 1946 when their “riders” were debuted. Just a year later, Wranglers introduced their first pair of authentic Western jeans.
Classic Design, Constantly Reinvented
Despite having been created almost 150 years ago, Levi’s finds a way to continually progress. One of their most brilliant methods of doing this is by partnering with trendy designers and stylists like Karla Welch to create special edition collaborative collections.
The reality is that Levi’s long-standing popularity has made them an iconic brand. So although they don’t participate in many paid endorsements, celebrities (even mega stars like Rihanna) flaunt their favorite Levi’s regularly.
This undeniable market share means than Levi’s is able to throw their energy behind more inclusive marketing campaigns that further cement the brand as a vestige of social progress.
Taking It To The Streets
In 2019, Levi’s featured a public offering for the first time since the 1980s. Aftering going public in 1971, Levi’s returned to being a private company in 1985, and has remained that way ever since. Until now.
While the company has high hopes following its IPO, the looming threat of trade wars and the impact of regulations in the face of climate change could drive up manufacturing costs, and put a dent in Levi’s industrial capabilities.
It remains to be seen whether taking the company public once again will prove a shrewd move or a stutter step in an otherwise successful history for Levi’s.
Effortlessly Cool, Timelessly Trustworthy
In 2018, Levi’s ranked second in the category of “most trustworthy” among consumers age 13 to 36. This essentially means that young buyers believe Levi’s is an authentic brand and company. Not only that, but they also think it’s cool.
In fact, Levi’s ranked just outside of the 10 “coolest” brands in the same survey, which is quite a feat when you consider the fact that Levi’s stacks up so closely with modern brands despite being created nearly 150 years ago. Of course, Levi’s hasn’t always been thought of so highly, but their effort to regain a hip status is evidently paying off.
Whichever descriptors are used for Levi’s, their market share speaks for itself. With its closest competitors only coming in at less than half of Levi’s 10.6% in 2015, it’s clear this iconic brand isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Levi’s may have started out as a sturdy pair of work pants for frontiersman in California, but this eternally-trendy brand has evolved with the times to become an important piece of global culture.