NEWS

Levi’s Resurrects Ramones Favorite Jeans

Read the full article at Esquire.

With a heritage that stretches all the way back to 1853, Levi’s isn’t exactly short on history. The brand has introduced some of the most iconic jeans the world has ever seen. Thankfully, the folks on the design team aren’t content to rest on their laurels—and they’re not afraid to breathe new life into the tried-and-true. They did it last year with a slimmed-down take on the 501, and now they’re doing it again with an updated riff on the 505.

For those unfamiliar, the style was first introduced in 1967 during the Summer of Love. But it really hit its stride in the ’70s, when punk rockers ranging from the Ramones to Debbie Harry embraced the slim silhouette. Now, Levi’s is introducing a trimmer version with a lower waist, dubbed the 505C. We caught up with head of design Jonathan Cheung to talk about reviving a counterculture classic.

Esquire.com: Why did you want to update the 505? And why now?

Jonathan Cheung: The iconic styles at Levi’s have always evolved. The 501, for example, has never remained static. And many people play with and customize our icons, including our own collaborators like Supreme, Virgil Abloh, or, quite recently, Josh Peskowitz. The conception of the 505C came about just over a year ago. I’d managed to see a pair of Johnny Ramone’s 505s and noticed he’d customized them by making the legs a bit slimmer. That planted the seed. Like many other people here, I’m a big fan of the 505—specifically the vintage version—and with such a resurgence of vintage Levi’s happening, we wanted to remaster the punk rock classic.

What went into the redesign?

A lot. We started with a deadstock 1976 505 that we managed to convince a Japanese collector to part with. Then we compared it to a whole bunch of vintage 505s from the ’80s and ’90s. So the starting point was vintage 505s. Like Johnny Ramone, we customized them by making the legs a little slimmer, and we dropped the waistline just a bit. We made dozens of prototypes at Eureka, our Innovation Lab, and then went on the road and tested the fit everywhere from Stockholm to Shanghai, London to Melbourne. What we got to is just a really good looking fit. It sits in the sweet spot between slim and skinny.

And then there’s the denim. My design team, who are total denim Jedi, found a label in the deadstock ’76s with a fabric code printed on it. Of course, being hardcore denim nerds, they didn’t settle for a denim that looked like the ’76 505—they had to go track down the original mill and reproduce the actual denim! Painstaking doesn’t cover it. But what you’re left with is a straight-line DNA descendent of what you see on The Ramones.

Why do you feel the jean’s countercultural roots are important today?

If you think about the late ’60s, there’s war protests, big issues on equality, race, sexuality, a restless youth who distrusted politicians… Does that draw any parallels with today?

How long did it take to get from the old cut to the new one? Any speed bumps along the way?

It took about a year from conception to launch. There’s always speed bumps! But the 505Cs development was relatively straightforward. The vision was so clear at the beginning. If we closed our eyes and pictured the cover of The Rolling Stones’Sticky Fingers album or The Ramones’ debut album, that was it. If you know where you’re going then when you hit the speed bumps they don’t put you off. You keep going.