Founded in 1853, Levi Strauss & Co. is a San Francisco based clothing company known primarily for their denim jeans. The company patented the use of copper reinforcing rivets in 1873, which helped to prevent tears at stress points like pocket corners and at the base of a button fly. The two horse logo was meant to showcase this design and the strength of the jeans, especially in lieu of a patent on the technique, which passed into the public domain in 1890. Soon after, the company assigned the lot number "501" to one of its preexisting pants, which would become its best selling jean.
For over a century Levi's made selvedge jeans in styles that adopted contemporary trends. Even the fit of the 501 was modified, its 1954 incarnation featuring a uniquely tapered leg.
However, in response to competition from cheaper imported goods in the 1990s, Levi's began aggressively outsourcing its clothing production and closed domestic factories. By 1985, according to Miles Johnson, design director of Levi's Vintage Clothing, selvage denim ceased to be standard in Levi's jeans. "When using cheaper alternatives, they could make four legs worth from one piece of fabric versus two. The fascination with [and reintroduction of] selvage didn't start until more recently." By 2003, the company had closed the last of its two remaining factories in the United States.
While Levi's still enjoys success as a jeans manufacturer and a favorable perception due to its heritage, any animosity on /fa/ towards the company's jeans stems from this outsourcing which signaled a marked decline in fabric and construction quality. This applies most directly to Levi's Mainline clothing and lower branches of production. Levi's Made and Crafted and Levi's Vintage Clothing operate in a higher price bracket and still offer clothing of considerable merit.
Levi's products are available worldwide and it's company divided into three geographic divisions: Levi Strauss Americas (LSA), based in the San Francisco headquarters; Levi Strauss Europe, Middle East and Africa (LSEMA), based in Brussels; and Asia Pacific Division (APD), based in Singapore. The company also owns the Dockers brand, which it launched in 1986.
Branches of Production/Lines
Levis produces clothing at different price points to accommodate different consumers. Made & Crafted, Vintage, and some of the higher end Mainline jeans are really the only "properly" good jeans Levi's produces.
Levi's Signature: Produced for discount retailers: Walmart, in the U.S. and Canada, and Kmart, Shopko, Blain’s Farm & Fleet, Hamrick’s and Meijer in the U.S. all priced at under $25; straight line on pocket rather than the Arcuate.
dENiZEN: Exclusively for Target. Retails at $29.99 or less. Honestly worse than Signature. If you're going to get jeans at Target you're better off getting Mossimo.
Levi's Made for Outlet: Carried at outlets and lower end retailers like Kohl's. Quality is generally poor, but noticeably better than Denizen or Signature.
Levi's Mainline: "Normal" Levi's, carried at Levi's mainline stores and mid level retailers like Macy's. Denim, seaming, and dyes are okay, not good. What you'd expect at this price range.
Levi's Vintage Clothing: High end reproduction of vintage garments and new garments inspired by vintage pieces. Also reproduces specific historical jeans. Very good quality, carried at only a few flagships (Union Square in SF, Beverly Hills, and Times Square) and high end department stores like Barney's, Saks, etc. See Where to Shop. Also, see their promotional video for Mr Porter.
Levi's Mainline and Outlet
Warning: The pictures on Levi's main site are notorious for misrepresenting how the jeans actually fit. Generally recommended fits include the 511, 510, 514, and 501, and less commonly the 513 and 508. Avoid bootcuts and "relaxed" fits.
510 Skinny Fit - Mid rise (10"), 13.5” leg opening. Skinniest fit, slim through seat and thigh, all the way down to ankle. Only for those with slim legs and thighs.
511 Slim Fit - Low rise (9"), 14.5” leg opening. slim through thigh with a slightly tapered leg. The most commonly recommended cut of Levis.
513 Slim Straight - Mid rise (10.5"), 15" leg opening. Slim leg, slimmer than 514 with a higher rise.
508 Regular Taper (formerly 521) Mid rise (11.5"), 14"opening. Slim fit, tapered leg, more room in the seat than the 513. Recommended by /fit/ fags who have THIGHS BIGGER THAN YOUR HEAD
514 Straight Fit - Mid Rise (10"), 17” leg opening. Close through the seat and thigh with straight leg.
501 Original; High Rise (11"), 17" leg opening Straight leg, slimmer through seat and thigh than the 505. Also available in unsanforized Shrink-to-Fit versions and high quality vintage replicas from Levi's Vintage Clothing. A good choice for men with larger thighs.
520 Extreme Taper They seem to have stopped making this fit.
517 Boot Cut - High rise (11.5"), 18.25” leg opening. Slim fit, boot cut leg.
505 Regular Fit - High rise (11"), 16.5" opening. Relaxed seat and thigh, straight leg.
527 Slim Boot Cut - Mid rise (10"), 18.25” leg opening. Regular seat and thigh, bootcut leg.
550 Relaxed Fit - High rise (11"), 16.5” leg opening. Relaxed seat and thigh, slightly tapered leg.
559 Relaxed Straight - Mid Rise (10"), 18” leg opening. Relaxed seat and thigh.
560 Comfort Fit - High Rise (11"), 16” leg opening. Loose overall fit and loose seat and thigh. Tapered leg.
562 Loose Tapered - High Rise (11"), 16 1/2" leg opening. Relaxed through the seat and thigh, slightly tapered leg.
569 Loose Straight - High rise, 18.5” leg opening. Loose seat and thigh. Straight leg.
The 510, 511, 514, 501, 505, 559, and 569 are mainline, online, and outlet. 550, 560, and 527 are outlet and online. 508, 513, and 517 are mainline/online only although a handful of the top selling outlets receive them.
Courtesy for some of this information goes to Levi's fag who posted on /fa/ a while ago:
Levi's Made & Crafted
Needle: Skinny; narrow jean with a skinny fit, regular rise, skinny leg and a zip fly.
Tack: Slim straight; a slim, zipper fly jean based on a classic Levi’s fit from the 1960s
Ruler: Straight leg fit.
Tailor: Tapered, high rise jean with a rounded top block. It tapers from the knee down to the ankle.
Shuttle: Loose Tapered; high rise easy fitting jean that is comfortable through the hips but tapers from the inseam to the ankle for a clean, slim and fitted silhouette.
Cutter: Relaxed; high rise jean that has a straight leg and is relaxed through the thigh.
Interview with Miles Johnson design director at Levi's Vintage Clothing and Levi's Made & Crafted