levi's

Original Levi’s 201 Jeans

This pair of original Levi’s No. 2 jeans was on display at the last edition of the denim fabric trade show Bluezone in Munich. It’s also known as the 201 jeans. The jeans belong to denim collector Viktor Fredbäck from Sweden. Viktor is well-known for his must-have denim book ‘True Fit’ which came out in 2014.

Recently, his latest project was released, the film Denim Hunter. In this documentary-style film, Viktor is going on a dizzying journey through US deserts, mines, and mountain ranges. He travels to the U.S.A. in search to find the last pair of miner jeans to complete his impressive denim collection. The film will be released worldwide on the 1st of March on Apple TV, Amazon, YouTube Movies, and Vimeo on demand. In the meantime, you can check the trailer here.

levi's 201

levis 201

The Story Of The Levi’s 201 Jeans

After working with his brothers in their dry goods wholesale business in New York City, Levi Strauss emigrated in 1853 to San Francisco as the ‘Gold Rush’ period was started a few years before after the discovery of gold in the mines. He first opened his own dry goods business to serve the small general stores of the American West. Twenty years later, in 1873, he received a letter from one of his clients, tailor Jacob Davis, to patent together his patent idea. As Jacob Davis didn’t have enough money for the patent, roughly $68,- he came up with the idea to partner up with Levi Strauss.

On the 20th of May in 1873, they received the official patent for the rivet. A small metal rivet was added to work pants, which would be known later as blue jeans. Together they created stronger pants for working men. The patent of this small copper element with just a diameter of 9.6mm shook the industry and set a new standard. This patent is known as No. 139,121: ‘Fastening Pocket-Openings’.

You can read more about the history of the rivet and its patent in a previous article here.

levi's 201

levis 201

A Less Expensive Version Of The 501

With the patent of the rivet, the first jeans was launched by Levi’s in 1873. And soon this pair was named the 501 jeans. Still the cornerstone of the American denim brand, even after 150 years. As the 501 was produced with the highest standards and materials, Levi’s came up with the idea to create a less expensive version too. To launch this cheaper jeans style was born by the fact that the exclusive patent for the brand would end in 1890. So, to serve the market, the less expensive version of the now famous 501 jeans hit the market. A smart idea to widen the target audience market back in the day. The fit and style of both jeans are the same, but the denim of the 201 is not the XX denim of the 501, and the jeans have a cloth back patch rather than leather.

levis 201

The Denim Expo At Bluezone

To promote the Denim Hunter film, Viktor Fredbäck set up a small denim expo at Bluezone. Part of this expo was this Levi’s pair of No. 2 – 201 jeans. This pair is produced between 1901 and 1910. In the book ‘True Fit’ you can read that this pair belongs to the fourth generation of the changes that were made by the brand as it comes to the back patch. It is said that between 1886 and 1912 – and 1913, the brand made five small changes in their pulling label. The graphic design on the patch was two horses that were trying to rip a pair of their jeans to show how strong they were made.

As the changes are so small, denim historian and hunter Michael Allen Harris, known for his book ‘Jeans of the Old West’, dived into this topic and figured out that the angle of one of the horse’s legs, as well as the angle of the man’s arm holding the wip, was changed by Levi’s. It’s a mystery why they made these small changes. It could be done because they thought it would perform better in sales. Or was it done for aesthetic reasons? Anyhow, knowing this, you can say that this pair of Levi’s 201 jeans belongs to the fourth generation of the changes.

levis 201

levis 201

The Details Of The Levi’s 201 Jeans

The Levi’s No. 2 – 201 jeans feature many unique details. Details such as suspender buttons on the waistband as belt loops were added later in 1922 by the brand. On the back, there’s a cinch back, so you could easily hold up your pair. There are rivets on the crotch, coin / watch pocket, and also on the back pockets. So the rivets are still exposed. The back patch is a cloth patch instead of leather. And there’re two back pockets. Levi’s added around 1901 the second back pocket, the left one, so miners had more storage room.

It’s patched and repaired on many places, which makes it a true piece of (denim) art. All in all, great historical pair of Levi’s.

levi's 201


Tip! Learn more about miner pairs of waist overalls – jeans in previous articles;

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.