Monday, November 23, 2009

Levi Vintage 501 1944 Report

Some time ago at B's Cafe maybe, one of our other discussions apart from watches was the uniqueness of some denim and denim jeans. At the time Red selvedge denim was making a fashionable comeback. Had they ever gone out of fashion?

A good friend of mine showed me a pair of Levis known as 1944s a few years ago, and pointed out the design features. Since then they have always been on my mind to track down.

501s have a history going back before 1944s, the jeans shown are known as 44s due only to the year that they were designed and distributed.  You could kinda could call them Levi's war effort jean ;-)

An email exchange took place about a year ago with fellow Tarts and Denim Nuts Gaz, Sam and Jeff regarding the red selvedge jeans. .

Details of the jeans as follows: 501s

a) Cone Mills 12-oz Red Selvedge Denim (14-oz after wash)
b) 2 back pockets with covered rivets
c) E' red tab
d) two Horse patch
e) painted Arcuate
f) pocket bag material herringbone shirt fabric

During World War II the US government's rationing lead to all clothing manufacturers  removing a certain amount of metal, fabric and tread from their garments, as this would help towards the war effort.

The crotch rivet, cinch-back and suspender buttons were gone for good on the 1944 501. Belt loops and concealed copper rivets now became standard.

The main design feature of the Levis 501 was the arch or Arcuate found on the back pocket.  It was deemed 'false stitching' and served no function so could be dropped as a part of the "rationing". LS& Co thought differently and they found a way to keep the Arcuate, by painting it on by hand.

At a glance you would never pick this detail, it blends so well. The paint would eventually wash off but importantly for LS&CO the Arcuate was there when they left the factory.

From time to time I'd see a pair or two on ebay but they were never the correct size. Oh and just on sizing there is also some concern about the reissue 1944s as the shrinkage is huge, up to 2-4 inches.

After almost 18 months of searching I finally found a pair locally at the Levi's vintage store 'Cinch' 5 Newburgh St here in London.

First impressions - the jeans are huge, today's fashion are slim fit and those are nothing close. The 501 is a classic boot cut leg and there seems to be ample backside space, the legs are also very long and wide.

I'm told these are going to change drastically after their first wash or soak (to allow shrinkage). I'll keep you posted to the out come. ;-)



JH said...

nice, very nice Jp. btw, is it too thick to wear it in Australian Summer?

The Sydney Tarts said...

Hey JH ;-)
I think the denim weight ok, its no heavier than other jeans I've worn there in Sydney. But hey when you guys are getting up into the 38-40c then shorts it can only be ;-)