Levi’s Authorized Vintage

The worlds largest vintage Levi’s Collection. Image Courtesy of GQ.com. Photographer: Brad Torchia.

Levi’s “Authorized Vintage.” 

A mega discovery was made a few years back by the Levi Strauss Company.  A dude in California had been sitting on a stockpile of “true” vintage Levi’s jeans.  (We will use the word ‘true’ in reference to denim that was made in America, as that’s what Levi’s is calling their ‘Authorized Vintage’)  This massive collection of denim was pretty much dismissed by the denim community as a myth.  Nobody could possibly be sitting on that much inventory.  This was the makings of some heft Reddit discussions (never made its way to Snopes though, I guess pants don’t rate that high).   However, the story broke, an inquiry was made and the story turned out to be, ugh, authentic.   For years this guy bought up as many pairs of vintage Levis’ as he could find for resale and it kinda dried up.  

So, in came Levi Strauss swooping up this mega collection to rekindle the love for the classic 501.  

And they, couldn’t, have, had, better, timing.  Seriously. 

Style icons are clamoring after light denim – you’ll see the legs of Kanye West slathered in the lightest of light dungarees and Shia LeBouf has been spotted clad in the crunchiest of vintage dad pants.  Been to a certain hip-style-mall-outlet recently?  Yup, they’ve got plenty of roomy suburb-style denim for everyone.  

Levis’ has done a tricky thing – they’ve gambled, and I do dare say, they’ve won.  Vintage denim is  so segmented and categorized – new makers, old stock, collector grade, grail pieces, blah blah that there’s something for just about everyone, globally.  And whether you’re looking for fresh designer takes on iconic materials or super rare selvedge cuts, you’re going to pay for them, no matter where you get them.  This is where Levi’s has hit the mark and here’s my argument for that – customers are really having difficulty finding ‘true’ Levi’s denim anymore outside of boutiques.  Go ahead, scan your local thrift store and you’re unlikely to see a red tag, or an orange tag, or even a silver tab.   Trust me, I’ve hypothesized and tested this theory.  I’ve visited multiple thrift-holes, both corporate and charity and there have been NO LEVI’S IN THE STORES.  None.  Not even cheap later grades made in Mauritius.  Where are they?  Are they being picked by back room sorting staff?  Or do they just not exist anymore?  We are in the first quarter of the 21st century which means, these classic drawers we’re so lusting after are at least 30 years old.  Thats quite a long time for something considered to be everyday utility wear.  

So, it looks like Levi’s has the corner on the vintage denim market.  And with that many pairs to distribute they basically have the ability to set the price – $248 a pair.  Don’t believe me? Flip to page 34 of this months GQ Magazine.  Featured.  Full page.  Two Hundred and Forty Eight Dollars.  Will be sold in select outlets (aka high end retail) in limited quantities.  Hell – at least they’re spreading them around. 

We as vintage dealers have our own sources and believe it or not, we’re not always able to score huge lots of premium goods.  We often do, but it’s not guaranteed.  I believe this is a positive thing in some ways firstly because it’s dispelling the myth that anybody can (easily) score vintage gear at the local Value Village.  It ain’t that easy anymore.  The stock simply isn’t there.  Sure, the pricing structure Levi’s has used is high, but fat pocketed fashionable folks will gladly pay for a pair of “Authorized Vintage.”   And we believe that they should, because there’s value in craftsmanship and quality and heritage and any economist will tell you that supply and demand have made excellent bedfellows since the beginning of time.  So if you’re lucky enough to actually find a real pair of U.S.A. Levis out in the wild, swipe ‘em up.  They’re worth it.  

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