The Levi's 501 '93 Is Proof the OG Jeans Remain Undefeated
There's a pithy Talmudic parable involving Hillel, the endlessly patient Babylonian sage, I've always been fond of. A particularly cheeky gentile approaches the great scholar and claims he'll convert if Hillel can teach him the entirety of the Torah while his challenger stands on one foot. Characteristically unruffled, Hillel replies: Do unto others as you would do unto yourself. The rest, he famously declares, is all commentary.
Here's a very abridged version of denim history for you: In 1873, Levi Strauss partners with Jacob Davis (then both comfortably settled Jewish émigrés) to file a patent for the process of putting rivets on work pants for the first time. A few years later, and voila: blue jeans as we know 'em are born. The rest, as Hillel might say, is all commentary.
To this day, the Levi's 501—inarguably the most iconic pant style produced by the brand—remains the standard-bearer by which all other denim is judged, and whether you're looking to buy your first pair or your fifteenth, the recently tweaked 501 '93 more than upholds its storied legacy.
The mid-gray "Raisin Stone" wash has a kind of rocker-y vibe, befitting the year for which the jeans are named.
They're built to last.
No matter how devoted of a denim enthusiast you are—whether you spend your weekends scouring dusty bins for rare pairs from the '40s or are happy to stock up by the handful at your local Costco—you should put some respect on the 501's name. There's a reason the OG Levi's style took off early and remains popular to this day—the pants are damn near indestructible. That same spirit still informs Levi's designs now. Every time I put on a pair of Levi's, I can't shake the feeling that they're meant for doing shit, and not in the cutesy, IG-friendly way a millennial-oriented athleisure brand might mean it.
Those all-important rivets (plus a special "Levi’s Premium" tag, for good measure).
They reference the best of '90s style.
Until very recently, the '90s were not exactly famous for being a repository of fashion inspiration. (That's a polite way of saying the decade was largely derided as one full of sus style decisions we'd all rather not revisit.) But spurred in part by designers like Balenciaga's Demna Gvasalia and his winking subversion of classic '90s tropes, the period suddenly became ripe for reinterpretation. The updated 501 references some of the time's, ah, distinctive stylistic signatures in a gray wash and straight fit that, together, seamlessly straddle the line between charmingly retro tribute and, well, weirdly relevant today.
The now-iconic red tab, and just a peek of the arcuate design.
Even after all these years, they still set the standard.
Ever since Calvin Klein slapped a fancy designer tag on his own line of denim and started pricing it accordingly, the market for premium versions of the style has skyrocketed in value. Steeped in a sense of democratic, everyman appeal backed by consistently approachable price points across the board, Levi's' approach to denim stands in stark contrast to the type of fancified preciousness the fashion industry tends to thrive on. To this day, the brand remains synonymous with the style it made famous. You could all-too-easily shell out well over $100 (or ten times that!) in pursuit of the fanciest jeans money can buy, but it'd still be hard to beat the value proposition a pair of Levi's represents. Very few items, in any industry, have that staying power.
If Hillel himself was around today to weigh in on the subject with his signature measured wisdom, something tells me he'd agree. The rest is all commentary indeed.
The beloved button-front fly.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.