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Levi’s 150 year journey

Updated on August 5, 2013

Levi Strauss & Co. also known as Levi’s, is a privately held American Clothing company that is known worldwide for its denim jeans. Levis was founded back in 1853 when Levi Strauss moved from Buttenheim, Bavaria to San Francisco, California; where he was going to open a west branch of his brothers’ dry good business. However, in 1873, Levi Strauss and his tailor Jacob Davis received a U.S. patent that allowed them to make their first men’s work pants out of denim: the first blue jeans. In the 1970’s the company experimented with a public stock listing that is owned and controlled by Levi’s four nephews. The company’s headquarters is located in San Francisco.

1873- 1990 History

Levi’s first stared at 90 Sacramento Street address in San Francisco. His following locations were at 62, 63, and 65 Sacramento Street.

We did not see modern jeans until the 1920s, but sales were largely from people working in the western United States. However, Levi jeans were introduced to the East during the dude ranch craze in the 1930s, when easterners returned back home with tales of hard-wearing pants with rivets. Another jump in the company came during World War II, when blue jeans were an essential commodity and sold to people engaged in defense work only.

During the 1950’s and 1980s, Levi jeans became popular among the youth. Greasers, mods, rockers, hippies, and skinheads were rocking the Levi’s during this time. During this time Levi came out with shrink-to-fit 501s that broaden the sizes. This was their number one selling product for this time because it allowed jeans to shrink and fit comfortably to those who had trouble find a pair of jeans that fit them perfectly.

1990s and later

By the time the 1990s came around, the brand was facing some major competition from other brands. Many of the other brands were making cheaper products overseas, and this is what began the US factory closures. However, in 1991, Levi was faced with a scandal involving its pants. They had a made in US label and they were really made by Chinese laborers. Therefore, today most of Levi’s jeans are made in other countries outside of the US, but there are a few higher ends that are still made in the United States.

In February 1996, the company took on a multi-billion dollar debt. The reason behind this was to help finance a series of leveraged stock buyouts among the family members still running the business. Shares in the Levi business is not publicly traded; the firm today is own by indirect descendants and relatives of Levi Strauss. However, the corporation’s bonds are traded publicly.

By June 1996, the company offered to pay its workers a dividend up to $750 million in a short six years’ time because they had to put a halt on the employee stock plan of the internal family buyout. Sadly, the company failed to make their targets, so no worker dividends were paid.

In 2007, Levi was again to be profitable after what had happen ten years prior. Their annual sales was just over $4 billion. In July 2007, there were rumors that there was a possible public stock offering, after over two decades of family ownership. In 2009, Levis started offering jeans on interest-free credit, due to the recession in the United States.

Levis have been around for about 150 years. If you are looking for a brand that you can depend on Levi’s is the place to go. To this day it is still owned by family of Levi Strauss. They had their share of ups and downs, but the company is here to stay!


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