Levi’s® Iconic 501® Jeans Gets the Stretch Treatment

Levi Strauss & Co.
September 20, 2016

This fall, Levi’s® wants you to go ahead and stretch it out in those 501s®.
For the first time in its 143-year history, the 501® and 501® CT jeans are getting the stretch treatment. It’s a big step for the line, but by no means does it compromise the quality and integrity of our tried-and-true blues.
“Putting stretch into the 501® was not taken lightly, and we’ve done it with absolute care and respect,” said Jonathan Cheung, Levi’s® Senior Vice President of Global Design. “We were very conscious that the denim for the 501® stretch had to be special. To do that, we took over a year to develop the fabric to make sure that the denim looked like a 501®.”
The fabric is not just any run-of the-mill stretch denim. The design team worked with fabric developers to develop a 501® proprietary fabric that has all the properties of the original Shrink-to-Fit fabric, but with stretch. Customarily, stretch fabrics cannot replicate the same look of its all-cotton counterpart, but our finish technicians ensured this new fabric maintained the DNA and integrity of the original.
“If you pick up a pair, you won’t see that they are stretch, you just see a pair of 501®’s,” Cheung said. “That’s important. We wanted to make the technology invisible. But the minute you try them on, you’ll feel the difference. It’s subtle, but you’ll feel it.”
The rich legacy of the 501® may make the new stretch adjustments a little tough to accept among the hardcore traditionalists out there, but the quality of the latest offerings should put concerns at ease. Our new 501® stretch fabric encompasses the heritage of the 501® while evolving to deliver increased comfort and movement in denim.
“There are many 501 traditionalists (and I’m a deep 501® nerd) that believe that the 501® should not be introduced in stretch, but when we looked at the 501®, its been changed so many times in its 143-year-old life – probably at least 40 times and it’s adapted itself to the lifestyles of the period,” Cheung said. “That’s been the secret to its longevity.”
From labor workers to rock stars, the 501® is worn by the pioneers who help shape our world. No matter how many changes or design tweaks it undergoes, it will continue to serve as a premiere expression of personal style and a symbol of individuality and universality for years to come.
“The spark of innovation that put rivets on a pair of work pants is what created what we all now know as jeans,” Cheung said. “It’s from innovation that this company will go on another 100 years, and it is our responsibility as designers to keep innovating.”