Tribute to an icon: Levi's jeans

We look at the famous denim brand.

Tribute to an icon: Levi's jeans

The early years

Levi Strauss was born in Buttenheim, Bavaria in 1829 to an Ashkenazi Jewish family. Aged 18, Strauss travelled with his mother and two sisters to the US  to join his brothers, who had begun a wholesale goods business in New York City. At the start of the California Gold Rush, Strauss journeyed to San Francisco in 1853, establishing a goods business importing clothing, bedding, combs, purses and handkerchiefs under his own name.


The use of rivets was fundamental to the birth of Levi’s jeans. In 1872, Strauss received a letter from one of his customers, Jacob Davis, a Nevada tailor. Davis revealed the unique way he made trousers using Strauss’ cloth that made them last longer – through the use of rivets at points of strain. Davis wanted to patent this new idea, but needed a business partner. Strauss agreed and the patent was granted to Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss & Company in 1873.


The material used to make the riveted trousers was blue denim – the traditional fabric for men’s workwear. The garments weren’t originally called jeans – that wasn’t a term adopted by the company for nearly 90 years. Instead, they were called waist overalls or overalls.

The patch logo

In 1886, the Two Horse brand logo was first used on the leather patch of the product to demonstrate its strength and emphasise the uniqueness of its patent-riveted clothing.

Strauss dies

In 1902, Strauss died and left his company (valued at nearly $6m) to his four nephews. Descendants of his family still own the business today although none are actively involved in its management.

The Red Tab

The Red Tab, with the name Levi’s stitched in white capitals, was introduced on the right back pocket of the overalls in 1936 to differentiate the product from its competitors.


In 1960, Levi’s replaced the word "overalls" with "jeans" in its advertising and on its labels after teens had started describing them as such.

Levi’s and BBH

When Bartle Bogle Hegarty was formed in 1982, Levi’s became a founding client. The agency was responsible for creating some of the most famous advertising in British history, most notably "Laundrette". The pair parted company in 2010.