Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Levi's 501s at J. Crew

You have to hand it to Mickey Drexler and everyone at J. Crew: they certainly haven't been resting on their laurels. Between launching both a men's store and a women's store, adding the "J. Crew Collection" (and a new Collection store), and taking the brand up-market inspite of a down economy, it is clear that Drexler is not one to stand still. Additionally, this past year J. Crew has begun offering products in direct partnership with larger brands including Red Wing Shoes, Mackintosh, and using Thomas Mason fabrics for their shirts. Their latest partnership is a bit of a puzzler to me, though.

I was looking at the J. Crew website this morning and came across a pair of "Vintage slim fit 501 jeans in dark rinse wash." I'm curious about a couple of things.

First, I am a bit surprised to see Levi's doing this type of partnership. Clearly with the current popoularity of 501s and classic American clothing in general, it does seem advantageous for both parties. I guess it's just that I wouldn't have really expected to have Levi's allow their products to be sold under someone else's name.

Second, the jeans themselves are a bit of a mystery, and the description on the website doesn't really seem to help any. They seem to be selvedge, but do not appear to be raw denim (i.e.- shrink-to-fit). They also say "Import" meaning that they are likely made in Mexico. While they have a non-standard leather label, the wash, "Dark Rinse", is one that is available for regular (sanfordized) 501s. It is difficult to tell just how "slim fitting" they are without being able to directly compare them to a regular pair of 501s.

With price tag of $265, I'm afraid that it is simply a bit of a bait and switch for people who don't know any better. These basically appear to be regular 501s with selvedge denim that were probably made in Mexico (or some 3rd world country). They should probably retail for about half that price. In fact, I was able to pick up a pair of Mexico-made (raw) selvedge 501s off the Levi's website on sale for about $40 several months back. I believe they may have been marked down from about $100. For the price J. Crew is asking, one could buy some very nice (read: quality) pairs of jeans (A.P.C., Nudie, etc.) and definitely get more for their money. Even if someone wanted a pair of slimmer fitting 501s, a repro of the 1947 501s from SugarCane only cost $247 from Denim Bar. They are based on the actual pattern for the 1947 Levi's and are made in Japan.

I guess I'm somewhat conflicted by J. Crew offering these jeans. On one hand, I think it is a little bit low for the company to be ripping off people by selling these jeans that seem to represent something, when they are, in fact, something else entirely. On the other hand, I have to hand it to them for doing so since it is simply capitalism, and if someone wants to drop that much cash on a pair of jeans without knowing why they cost that much, more power to them. Caveat emptor.


Anonymous said...

Anyone willing to pay 265 clams for dungarees is either go-to-hell rich or deserves to be parted from their money on Darwinian principles.

Anonymous said...

It's funny you mentioned A.P.C and Nudie because I have a pair of each and they are now the only jeans I wear. The quality and amount of wear I get out of the jeans make them worth every bit of what I paid for them. Now in terms of brands such as 7 for all mankind etc. I will absolutely agree with matthew that they aren't worth the cost. Unfortunately, it took me buying a pair or five to come to that realization. Trip, do you own any A.P.Cs or Nudies? I haven't come across too many people that even know what they are.

Anonymous said...

Don't get me wrong. I bought a few pairs of "Lucky Brand" jeans at step discount. While not of "better quality" than regular Levi's or even $16 Wranglers from Wal-Mart, they are just a tad smarter, style wise. But if not for the steep discount . . . .

BTW, Land's End offers very well made jeans with top-quality fabric, various fits, rinses, and shades of blue -- even in long rise! They are a bit bland looking, but they are IMHO the top value-for-money option.

trip said...


I used to feel the same way about jeans. I found it hard to believe that anyone could really spend more than $50 on jeans. However, after doing lots of research about premium denim, it is clear that well-made jeans are an artisan product. Well-made jeans are quality and will last much longer than cheaper pairs (they simply have better material and are better constructed). Is the price-per-wear superior to, say, a pair from Lands End? I'm not sure. But I would say that in terms of wear and fading, they certainly look better over time.


No, actually I do not own Nudies or A.P.C.; I haven't moved beyond Levi's at this point. Unfortunately I don't have enough cushion built into my student loans to be able to obtain a pair. Once I start making money again, I believe that I would like to get a pair of New Standards. My knowledge of them at this point is only really from the Streetwear & Denim forum at Styleforum and a little bit of time on Superfuture.