If any brand can succeed by reimagining their old styles, Levi's is it. Back at it again, the iconic denim label has remastered their 505 classics into the 505C (the "C" stands for customized), which are available right now.
Based off the iconic 505 style that was made famous in the late '60s and into the '70s by Debbie Harry, The Ramones, and The Rolling Stones, this fit is something we've all been missing in our lineup of denim. Inspired by the New York punk scene of pop artists, graffiti writers, and rock stars, Levi's has modernized the silhouette to a straight leg with a slim fit. And to celebrate, Levi's launched the jean alongside icon Debbie Harry at the Bowery Ballroom last night in NYC. Because, really, who better to wear their new silhouette than her? "Blue denim has always been truly American, and I can remember when the kids in the Eastern Bloc, before the wall came down, were always asking for our jeans. Levi's made a lot of dreams come true,” says Harry.
We caught up with Levi's head of design, Jonathan Cheung, to talk about how the whole process happened. Read through below.
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When did you start the conversation about recreating the 505?
The beginnings? Oh wow, I can trace that back to 2013. The 505 has always been a favorite of mine and of many of the guys here at Levi’s. Particularly the vintage ones. But it wasn’t until 2013 that I realized girls loved the vintage men’s 505s too. Many of the girls on the design team loved them for the way they hold your tummy flat and the way they hold you ‘round the back. That’s where the Wedgie came from! But the real work on what has become the 505C started a year ago when things started to fall into place. I saw a pair of 505s that belonged to one of The Ramones and put that together with the infamous cover of the Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers album, and then the epiphany came with the Debbie Harry photo. They really did look amazing on both men and women. We had to do it.
What about the 505C is special and that your customers haven't seen yet from Levi’s?
The 505C is something we don’t have elsewhere in the line. Because it’s very much vintage-inspired, everything is subtly different. The front pockets have bigger scoops, the back pockets are bigger, the stitching is different, even the back patch is bigger. Then there’s the fit. It’s like the Wedgie (and yes, with that little oomph to the backside) with a slightly lower rise and a zip fly. And it’s a slim-straight leg. All that gives the 505C attitude.
What was the first thing you changed about the 505 to make it modern?
We made the leg a little slimmer and lowered the rise just a tad. But we kept the magic; the "hook" shape of the back rise that tucks you in nicely.
What kind of outfit do you see styled with the jeans?
A simple tee or tank. Heels or sneakers. Mascara. Done.
Why do you think it's important for brands to go back to their roots and remake old styles?
Authenticity, identity, and nostalgia. There’s something about the iconic Levi’s that feels soulful and yet modern. In a world where there’s so many choices, so much noise... going back to the source, the mother dough... nothing else feels quite as real.
Do you think it's been successful for Levi's to remake old favorites?
Yeah. I think so. And it’s not just us who’s remaking them. Our friends at Vetements and Off-White have been playing with our favorite pieces too. It seems to be working alright.