Throwback Thursday: Pants That Saved A Life

Tracey Panek, LS&Co. Historian
Levi Strauss & Co.
November 12, 2015

The LS&Co. Archives is loaded with pieces of clothing that have amazing stories to tell. There’s one pair of Dockers® khakis, though, that wins the award for its heroism.

The pants come to us from a lieutenant colonel and retired Air Force Chaplain who served with the Multi-National Force in Iraq from May 2006 until April 2007. While in Iraq, the Chaplain — and his Dockers® pants — had a memorable and quite harrowing experience.

Before leaving for Baghdad, the Chaplain followed orders to wear civilian clothes while traveling to the war zone. What did he choose to wear on the plane heading overseas? A pair of black Dockers® pants.

When he arrived on base, he put the khakis in a steel closet of the trailer near the Baghdad International Airport, where he was posted. For remainder of his year of service he wore a uniform, and his Dockers® remained folded in the closet.

As he prepared to go home at the end of his tour, he reached into the closet to retrieve his belongings and was surprised to find what looked like shards of chocolate splattered all over the pants. Was it a mouse? he wondered. Looking more closely, he realized it was sawdust … but there was nothing made of wood in the locker.

When he picked up the pants to shake them out, he noticed they had a hole on the outside, near the top, on the left leg. There was one on the inside of the right leg, too. While he was pondering this mystery, something caught his eye.

Dockers and Bullet

A 50-caliber bullet with a wing-shaped piece of metal fused to it was stuck in the fabric of his pants. He ran back to the locker and discovered to his horror that there was a hole ripped out of the back. Behind the locker there was an even bigger hole that had shattered the plywood divide between his neighbor’s room and his own. He also discovered a small hole near the ceiling.

Suddenly, everything was clear. A sniper had fired a bullet at the trailer. It breached the protective “T-wall” perimeter of the trailer area and burst into the men’s living quarters. Only the Dockers® khakis and the melted metal piece of the locker on the bullet had prevented it from launching through the room and into the narrow passage where men walked back and forth.

Dockers and Bullet

Everyone in camp got a good laugh out of the Chaplain’s good fortune, and of course everyone wanted to see the pants. “The largest bullet in our inventory had passed over my neighbor’s bed and gotten lodged in a pair of Dockers® khakis,” he said.

When the Chaplain and his family visited Levi’s Plaza, he donated his khakis and the very scary bullet to the Archives. We’re filing this under the category of “Pants That Saved A Life.”

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