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Saturday, May 29, 2010

WHEN LEVIS WERE KING

Levis were first made in the 1800s; they were tough, stylish, and functional. Since I wasn't born then, I had to wait until the 30’s and 40’s to realize their impact on my school peers.

There were several things that made Levis special. The copper rivet, placed at the stress points, (they had to finally remove the one in the crotch for obvious reasons,) the toughness of the material, the special stitching on the pockets, the button up fly, the leather logo patch, and the red Levi patch on the pocket. All this and more made the Levi jeans, the pants of choice for most of the boys in school. The girls found out that they looked good in jeans and then they began to wear them also.

It was a tradition that before school started each year the boys would get a new pair of Levis, and then began the preparation of them. It was a ritual that when buying Levis you bought them with the legs about 8 inches too long so you could fold them up inside the pant leg and then fold them back again on the outside of the leg to make a cuff. In order for the cuff to stay in that position, paper clips were placed on them, after awhile they could be taken off and the cuffs would stay in position.

It also was a tradition that the Levis were to be worn the whole year without being washed. Since the boys used a greasy hair crème on their hair, the grease would get on their hands, which they promptly wiped on their pants. By the end of the school year those pants would reek from sweat and grease, and they also would be pretty stiff by this time. I remember being told by one boy, “When I take my pants off I want them to stand up in the corner by themselves.”

There were other additions to their attire; argyle socks, and knitted wool sweaters with designs on them such as a deer. One other item, that was a must, was wing tipped shoes that were dyed with cordovan dye. The dye had a pungent odor that drove some adults to distraction. The awful smell affected the manager of the local theater so dreadfully that he often kicked some kids out of the show.

What I have addressed so far is what the cool kids wore. My attire was somewhat different. My mother would not buy me Levis, due to the high cost of them. They were made by American women instead of the cheaper Chinese labor that other Jean makers were using. I had to wear these low-cost jeans which eliminated me from being a part of the cool set.

Not only that, but my jeans were washed each week. While I didn't have the “in” sweater, I did have the wing tips and I dyed them with the cordovan dye myself, so all was not lost. One final note, when you washed Levis the leather patch on the back would shrivel and wrinkle. One of my friends was very upset, because his mother had finally got fed up with his nasty pants and washed them. He was really beside himself; it was as if his whole image was now destroyed.

It’s a good thing I wasn't very style conscious for I would have been miserable, because I never had a pair of Levis, until I could buy them myself!

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