Levi Strauss & Co: A Timeline

Selvedge Levi’s - When jeans first came about, they were strictly worn for utility.  They were considered workwear, and because of that, each pair was constructed with care and quality in mind.  The denim was raw (not pre-washed) and had to be broken in. It was made in America from selvedge denim. Before the 1950s, most fabrics were made on shuttle looms. The edges on these strips came finished with tightly woven bands running down each side to prevent fraying or raveling.  Because the edges came out of the loom finished, they were referred to as “self-edge” or “selvedge.” During the 1950s, the popularity of denim grew rapidly, and denim companies needed to produce more and cut costs.  So, they started using denim created on projectile looms.  These machines could create wider swaths of fabric at a cheaper price. Today, jeans are typically made from denim created on projectile looms, and finding selvedge denim is hard to come by. Selvedge denim is historic, authentic, and hard to find - making it highly collectible. 

Big E Levi's - Up until 1971: The uppercase letter refers to the E in Levi.  From the company’s inception until 1971, the red tab on the back pocket featured Levi’s with a capital E. Big E Levi’s denim is the oldest and hardest to find, making it the most valuable. 

Orange Tab Levi’s - 1969 to 1999: They first arrived on the scene in 1969.  The company sought to create a jean with a different stitching method and overall appearance. In order to differentiate the two, Levi's switched out the classic red tab for an orange one.  The primary difference between the two is in the stitching; orange tabs have seven belt loops, and red tabs only have five. standard red tabs have six rivets on the front pocket, whereas orange tabs only have five. Back pockets on orange tabs are square, and red tabs taper. 

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