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A Pair Of 1890’s Spring Bottoms

Recently Levi’s added one of the oldest pairs of value jeans in their archives, a pair of 1890’s Spring Bottoms. Tracey Panek, the historian at Levi Strauss, shares straight from the Vault in San Francisco the story behind this new treasure.

levi's leadville

The Leadville Town

The Spring Bottoms are called Leadville by the brand as the jeans were found in this mining town. This town is located at 10,000 feet above sea level, near the highest summit of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, and was founded in the late 1870s. Leadville’s striking scenery and historic mining structures, like a massive wooden headframe that is still standing today, make it the perfect place for a Levi’s discovery.

levi's leadville

The First Levi’s Flared Jean

The Leadville Levi’s are a pair of riveted denim, also known as a cousin to the legendary 501 jeans. They are named for their spring or flare at the bottom of the hem and are considered the first Levi’s flared jean. Spring Bottoms would have suited a store owner, clerk, office worker, or another middle manager who preferred more tailored clothes.

Spring Bottoms were first introduced in 1889 and originally came in two colors, blue or grey denim. The Leadville Levi’s are unusual grey denim. With the new addition, the Levi’s Archives now has examples of both blue and grey pairs.

levi's leadville

Details Of The Jeans

The Leadville jeans have riveted pockets, but the pockets are rounded and tailored with unusual stitching detail. Such tailoring, which would have required a skilled sewing machine operator, meant that the jeans took longer to make and were more expensive than traditional 501 waist overalls back in the day. But, as they’re a so-called No. 2 pair of Spring Bottoms means that they were more affordable, and thus a bit cheaper. It also has a cloth patch instead of a leather patch.

Other details include striped lining at the waistband, a back cinch, and brass buttons for suspenders and the fly. The cloth back patch is triangular and was placed on the center back of the waistband. It features our Two Horse Design trademark, a symbol of quality and strength. The bottom of the patch includes the sizing, in this case, 36 X 33.

levi's leadville

levi's leadville

The Video

In the video here below, Tracey Panek shares the full story behind the Leadville Spring Bottoms jeans.


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Written by Wouter Munnichs
I'm the founder of Long John. Next to running this daily magazine, I'm working as a freelance denim specialist for the industry. Titled as 'Denim Influencer 2020' by Rivet 50. Celebrated my 10th anniversary with Long John in 2021.