Friday, August 26, 2016

First Impressions: Levi's Vintage Clothing - 1967 505 Rigid Jeans


It seems that every time I turn around, Levi's has come out with another line of jeans I don't really understand the concept of nor the need for, but Levis' Vintage Clothing I get completely. LVC is Levi's archival collection, featuring jeans and clothing from different points in their storied history.

I was rummaging through the Levi's racks at Century 21 a few months ago, a section I don't normally take the time to sift through (I'm not really looking for 511's or Commuter jeans, regardless of the price), when my hands ran across the surface of something I didn't expect to feel - raw denim. You would imagine my surprise to find they were LVC's 1967 505 rigid jeans for $49.99 (!), and in the dressing room to discover that the fit was very approachable, even by today's standards. Yahtzee.

Levi's introduced the 505 in 1967, the "Summer of Love," and it quickly became a favorite among rock stars and the rebellious youth of the day. The Rolling Stones featured a pair of 505's on the cover of Sticky Fingers, and all four members of The Ramones wore 505's for the cover of their eponymous album.

Design, Materials, and Construction

 
Selvedge line and characteristic arcuate stitching

The 1967 505's are made in 14 oz (medium weight) sanforized Kaihara selvedge denim woven in a standard right-hand twill, though there were actually two versions made at some point - one with the Kaihara and the other using 12 oz Cone Mills (as they were originally). The selvedge line, originally plain white, moved to white with red stitching running through it to identify the exclusive XX denim made for Levi's. The fabric itself is a medium dark shade of indigo with with a nice tight weave and a moderately stiff hand. It's good stuff; nothing to particularly fetishize about like a super heavy weight or something with a ton of slub or nep, though you wouldn't expect that here. If you're already experienced with quality raw selvedge denim, the 505's should feel very familiar.

Included LVC brochure


LVC include a little brochure tag with their jeans to point out the historical design details you'll find on their clothing. You'll notice a capital "E" red tab label on the back pocket, one of the first indicators that you would normally be looking at a vintage pair, which was later switched in 1971 to the small "e" Levi's tabs we see today so it would read "Levi's" instead of "LEVI'S".

"Big E" red tab

We're also used to seeing YKK zippers on everything, but LVC uses the original Talon zipper used on the 1967 505's that articulates and moves pretty much the same. Bar tacking had replaced rivets at the back pockets by the time the 505s were produced (rivets would wear through the pockets and scratch up whatever you were sitting on), with the remaining rivets and shanks copper.

Talon zipper

"Two Horses" back patch
There was a time Levi's used leather for their iconic "two horses" back patch, depicting two horses trying and failing to rip apart a pair of Levi's, but they switched in the 1950's to "leather-like" card stock to cut down on costs - that's what you'll find on LVC's 1967 505's. It feels like card stock, which is fine unless you were expecting it to feel like actual leather, in which case it feels like sh*t. Older Levi's models did have a leather patch, which are included on those jeans.


All in all, stitching is good, construction is solid, denim is premium, and there aren't any noticeable weak points to note. They're clearly a notch above budget raw selvedge like you could find at a place like Uniqlo. As I mentioned, though, there's nothing either that particularly catches the eye, which I think is partly the point. After recently picking up a pair of selvedge jeans at Banana Republic that had selvedge lines on both the coin pocket and the entire right back pocket, I've come to appreciate a little restraint and subtlety.


Interior chain stitching and bar tacking

 

Sizing and Fit

 


Not the same fit
I wear a 31 waist in most standard vanity sizing for a true 33" waist, which is also the case for the 505. There are a lot of people that advise sizing down in jeans a size to allow for stretching, but I've suffered through too many pairs of tight jeans that didn't stretch as much as I had hoped to continue doing it. My groin has been through too many hard-fought battles to continue putting it through that sort of torture for questionable gains. 
Also pictured: Shirt - Brooks Brothers Linen, Belt - Don't Mourn, Organize!, Boots - Red Wing Heritage Beckman

Levi's describes the 1967 505 as a "slim straight" compared to their older 501 models, with a lower rise as well, though those looking for skinny jeans will find no joy here. In fact, Levi's eventually introduced a modified 505C fit, which is cut slimmer than the original in keeping with the modern convention of slim to skinny fits. However, I wouldn't call the 505's baggy by any means - I was actually pleasantly surprised that they were so relatable. The fit has an average top block with a slim thigh that leaves a slight bit of room down the length of the leg. It's a style I've found pairs easily with a pair of boots and a leather jacket, or any classic casual Americana.



Impressions and Value

 

Also pictured: Boots - Wolverine Centennial 1000 Mile
LVC is a collection of greatest hits from the world's greatest jeans company. What is interesting and special about the 1967 505's is that they still feel perfectly at home in 2016. I hesitate to say "timeless" because so many people throw that around about things that aren't at all ("suit fit is timeless"), but it's hard to argue these jeans aren't as relevant as they were when they were first introduced. But so is vanilla ice cream, and that's where I find some issue with the pricing.
Also pictured: Belt - Thirteen50 bridle leather

A lot of LVC's other models are not typical fits you can easily find today, like the 1890 501's with brace buttons and back cinch, and I can see more justification for pricing in rare, unique design there. But you could easily argue that the LVC 1967 505 is just a good, basic pair of raw selvedge jeans and you would be right. It is essentially the archetype of that. So for a denim history nut who has to have these, then yeah, whatever price is fine, but $225-240 MSRP is pretty steep for something that could be called "generic" by modern standards. I think it's a little obvious that brand prestige is built into the pricing, which is even more obvious with some of the other items in LVC's collection.

On sale, though, Levi's Vintage Clothing is a decent proposition, especially for <$100. I picked my pair up for <$50 in a rack full of random standard 508's or something, at which price they're cheaper than Gap or Banana Republic jeans - essentially a no-brainer. They're stupid good at that price. LVC puts some of their models on sale themselves, which have been known to rarely be included in Levi's main site blanket additional sales. But if you see some hanging around a Mr. Porter or Unionmade Archive sale for cheap as well, I'd consider taking a closer look yourself.


Where to Buy


Levi's Vintage Clothing
505 at Mr. Porter
505 at Oki-Ni
505 at Stuarts of London
505 at Unionmade (Cone Mills)
 

Pros


  • Quality denim and materials
  •  Solid construction
  • Approachable fit 
  • A way to own a historically accurate pair of 1967 505's

Cons

 

  • Aside from its history, no particular standout features
  • Overpriced for what it is

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