Aging is funny aint it? Like, you can love something when you're younger, completely forget about it and then find yourself 20 years later having a complete obsession for it all over. That's me with Levi's jeans (again).
Back around '98, my bestie and I would go shopping in D.C. in a part of the city called Georgetown. A fond memory I had of shopping back then, was walking into a cobbler's boutique store that had authentic luxury Italian shoes. To this day, I spent the most money I'd ever spend on shoes there which was on a pair of knee-high leather lace-up boots. I remember the store owner saying, "these will hold their value forever, never get rid of them". So I didn't.
I wish I had done the same for what I'm about to tell you
Just down the alley from there, was a store that specialized in carrying only used Levi's, I think it was called "Lucky Seven" or something like that but I can't find anything on it. From what I remember, it was like a giant magical library of jeans wall to wall organized by era, style, and wash. The people who worked there were always way cooler than I would ever dream to be and played the best music. I remember buying a pair of burnt orange 70s corduroys and a pair of 60s bell-bottom jeans from there. Not knowing elder Seanna was going to want them so badly in the year 2022, I got rid of them years ago. In fact, I think I wore the bell bottoms so much and they were SO long in the leg, the bottoms of them were shredded from dragging in rain puddles.
Over the past few years, I've kind of stopped wearing or buying jeans purely for the fact that I found them incredibly uncomfortable. These new brands try to make them high-waisted, stretchy, or comfier in their design but still no dice...I couldn't wait to take them off at the end of the day. Then, it happened-
One day while thrifting, I saw a pair of Levi's that were so incredibly affordable I said fuck it and grabbed them to give jeans another try.
This was the moment I fell back in love with Levi's and the notion of becoming a knowlegable vintage jean collector.
I had NO idea the history of Levi's would become such a hot commodity down the road. One couldn't fathom an authentic pair of vintage Levi 501 jeans could ever sell on eBay for over a thousand dollars, yet here we are. I began to dig around the internet to find out how one would be able to decipher the era of a pair of jeans and my mind was blown. It's a lot more complicated than you'd think and boils down to label, color of said label, care tag, and even details in the buttons. I am a mere fledgling in the wisdom of historical jean-etics.
Have you ever heard of the Big E? Once you start looking up vintage Levi's that's literally all you will ever look for again. Considering there's an abundance of blogs already touching on the topic (which I will link below) I'm going to quickly explain.
We all know the iconic red tab on the back pockets of Levi's. Well, the short version of the story is that if the E in LEVI'S is capital, you've got yourself a "Big E" meaning they were made before 1971 and are considered quite valuable. Levi's website actually mentions it themselves but they don't go too far into detail about what that actually means for all the other years and doesn't mean anything post '71 doesn't hold value. Their jeans from the 80s still resell for a pretty penny.
Upon learning this I've literally examined every pair of jeans in every thrift store I've been too since. I mean EVERY PAIR and found two I liked for myself and two to sell in my store. These ones shown hanging above are the typical type of Levi's I tend to find while thrifting- Not vintage and nothing special really, just good, solid, well-made pants. But then...THEN...there it was, the BIG E, the ones I'm wearing in these pics. Even the tag on the waistline in the back feels different, it's leather instead of the typical Levi's paper-feeling logo tag. It was as if I had found Willy Wonka's golden ticket. I even looked around as if someone heard me gasp and suddenly I'd be swarmed with thrift vultures circling me to steal it from my death grip... alas, nobody cared.
I need to do more investigating to find the value and apparently, there are expert online groups that will tell you the value of your jeans if you upload a photo to their community page. I must find thee messiahs of thine ancient denim.
My best advice if you want to become a Levi's collector is shop the men's section. I found maybe two pairs of Levi's jeans in the women's section and about twenty in the men's. At first, I thought I wouldn't share any of this so the world of thrifting doesn't get more saturated with pickers looking for the same thing as me but I can rest easy for a few reasons:
1. Not that many people read my blogs, lol.
2. This aint new news.
3. Anyone who has the desire to find treasures like this aren't just searching for jeans, and likely already know about the Big E so I can chill.
However, if you are someone I know who also likes to thrift and also has a newfound obsession with vintage Levi's... you're in luck! My store will now be carrying jeans but specifically, only Levi's brand jeans of yesteryear.
Currently in stock:
501's size 34 waist purchase here
514's size 31 waist purchase here
Blog Posts I found useful: