The Introduction Of The 517 Saddleman Style
In 1969, Levi’s introduced their true Cowboy jeans, the 517 Saddleman. This style is their bootcut jeans, widens from knee to ankle, so designed to wear with a pair of Cowboy boots in mind. A style that became very popular, also later in the 1970s by hippies. I have a few of those 517s in my archive which were worn by them and achieved a very nice natural wear pattern.
Deadstock 517 Saddleman Promo Jeans
Recently I got my hands on a 517 Saddleman promo jeans. Or, better said, a rodeo clown jeans. A pair in deadstock condition, so with all the tags still on it. This pair of zip fly jeans is made in America with 100% cotton fabric, so not with the Sta-Prest (non-iron) fabric which Levi’s also used in this period. The jeans is made of unwashed fabric, right-hand twill, without selvedge ID.
Huge ‘Big E’ Red Tab
This pair of Levi’s jeans has a huge ‘Big E‘ tab on the back pocket. It’s quite strange as the ‘Big E’ tab disappeared after 1971 when they switched to a lower case ‘e’ on the Red Tab, and this pair is from 1984. To be precise, this pair is produced in October 1984. The newer Levi’s Tab is visible on the pocket flasher, so it’s rare to see these two together on one pair.
Promo Pair For Rodeo Clowns
The size of this pair is huge as well, the waist is 46, while the length is short, only 23” length. This pair is made as a promo pair for rodeo clowns. These rodeo clowns were wearing oversized pairs of jeans during rodeo events in America. Denim brands used these events as a marketing tool to promote their clothing. And, as the 517 style was designed with Cowboys, and boots wearers in mind, the rodeo event was the perfect occasion to reach their target audience.
Rodeo events are still popular and organized in the States. Rodeo clowns are playing a critical role in those rodeos events. They entertain the crowds during breaks but also distracted a bull or horse from fallen riders so that the injured could exit the ring. This gave them a chance to get to safety.
Rodeo Rider George Doak
In the 1970s, Levi’s made a more or less the same pair for rodeo clown George Doak, also nick-named Oki Doki. It was also an oversized and baggy pair, a modified 501 style, with an enormous Red Tab featuring LEVI’S in all capital letters. To keep the loose-fitting jeans from slipping, he was wearing this jeans with green suspenders and tied colorful bandanas to the waistband. The bright scarves may also have distracted the bulls.
A True Eye-Catcher
So, this pair was made for rodeo clowns, to promote Levi’s as a brand during these rodeo events. A true eye-catcher with the huge Red Tab. A good marketing and branding tool to promote the 517 Saddleman bootcut style of the Levi’s brand.