To celebrate the 501’s birthday, Levi’s has created a documentary—released in several parts—about the iconic jeans. The fourth episode highlights the 501’s immense influence in Japan. Narrated by Craig Stecyk (aka C.R. Stecyk III, a surf and skate pioneer whose life was portrayed in “Dogtown and Z-Boys” and “Lords of Dogtown”), the film features Nigo of BAPE, Shinsuke Takizawa of NEIGHBORHOOD, Erik Brunetti of FUCT, Verbal and Yoon of AMBUSH and plenty more, as it traces the iconic style and its importance in Japan. In the ’50s, American movies, motorbikes and denim were super-popular, and while studying the former was easy, American denim was difficult to find, so a few enterprising enthusiasts began bringing Levi’s products over and a phenomenon ensued.
The Japanese take on Americana was even better than the original.
The film goes on to explore how later—in the ’90s but certainly still to this day—vintage denim became highly sought-after. Denim experts show off their collections and several pieces that now fetch thousands and thousands of dollars. The influence of Americana and the Levi’s 501’s role within that, is fascinating—and charming. The result of this mimicry coupled with reinvention is an entirely Japanese Americana—a style that is ultimately unique and even ended up influencing the country from whence it originated.
Watch the fascinating full documentary, “The 501® Jean: Stories of an Original” on YouTube.
Image courtesy of Levi’s