The Stories Of The 13 Stars And Laurel Leaf Buttons

Nowadays you see all kinds of different buttons on pairs of jeans. Specially designed for the brand, just like the rivets on jeans. You can read more about the rivet in a previous article here.

Producing your own branded button wasn’t always the case. In a certain period, around the 1930s and 1940s, the so-called ’13 Stars’ and ‘Laurel Leaf’ buttons were dominating in the market. These button designs were made with interesting stories attached. Stories that aren’t known by everyone, so let’s zoom in on them as they’re part of the history of denim. And they are still used by some denim brands nowadays to distinguish themselves from others.

laurel leaf 13 star button

The 13 Stars Button

The classic ‘13 Star’ button can be seen on vintage World War 2 army clothing and on later produced workwear styles. Next to these, they were also used on many unbranded denim brands back in the day. This was cheaper compared to producing your own designed buttons.

The 13 stars on the buttons represent the original 13 British colonies on the Atlantic Coast of the North of the United States. These colonies, also known as the ‘Thirteen Colonies’ or Thirteen British Colonies’ were founded in the 17th and 18th centuries. The American Enlightenment led these colonies to the American Revolutionary War. They declared independence as the United States of America in July 1776, which was achieved by 1783 under the Treaty of Paris.

These 13 original states were New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

Today. these original colonies are also part of the American flag as there are 13 stripes (7 red and 6 white) used in the flag design. Next to the 13 stripes, the American flag features 50 white stars too. The 50 stars on the flag represent the 50 U.S. states.

13 stars button

Sometimes the ’13 Star’ button was used as part of the fly, but there are also examples where only the top button is like this, combined with a zipper. The example is from the 1970s.

The 13 Stars Button By Grivec Bros.

Nowadays, some brands are still using the ’13 Star’ button, for example the Dutch Grivec Bros brand. They’re using this authentic button design on the fly on all their pairs of jeans, next to their branded top button.

13 Star button on fly of a pair of Grivec Bros. jeans.

On their limited ‘Black Label‘ edition a few years ago, they used a special black version of their button. The black version was used next to their regular versions on the fly. The black button will age over time, just like the others on the fly. The Dutch denim brand developed the ’13 Star’ buttons themselves, so they’re not standard-picked as some brands do for their production. They used an original button and reproduced them.

grivec 13 star button

Black version of the 13 Star button by Grivec Bros.

The Laurel Leaf Button

The ‘Laurel Leaf’ button is another button that was the standard at a certain point within the history of jeans. This button design can already be seen on vintage pairs from the 1930’s. Basically, most of these jeans are unbranded, many times produced by a major (denim) retailer that sold their own workwear styles via mail orders. Or in their physical stores of course.

During World War 2, denim brands were forced to save material for wartime. The usage of the standard hardware rules was set by the War Production Board for the conservation of raw materials. Therefore, many denim brands switched their branded, specially produced, branded buttons to Laurel Leaf versions (Check out an original pair of WW2-era Levi’s jeans with standard buttons, unbranded here). The laurel leaves on the buttons were added as a symbol of peace, protection, and victory. Wisely chosen during the war.

Fun fact: laurel leaves were also commonly put under pillows at night to gain inspiration through dreams.

laurel leaf button

Rusty version of Laurel Leaf button with 5 stars on a pair from the 1960s.

The Different Laurel Leaf Button Designs

There are several different versions produced during the time of the laurel leaf buttons. While most of the time they only used the laurel leaf on the button, there are also versions where they added one or even more stars. Besides that, there are versions with the brand name combined with the laurel leaf too.

Laurel Leaf buttons with 5 stars on a 1930s pair of jeans. The buttons are only used on the fly as the top button is a snap button.

laurel leaf

Laurel Leaf button with brand name + 3 stars. This button is part of the Spanish brand Laver from the 1960s/70s.

The Laurel Leaf Button By Blue Blanket

The Italian Blue Blanket brand is using also its version of the Laurel Leaf on each pair of jeans and jacket. Therefore you can also spot it on the recently released Blue Blanket x Long John collab denim jacket. More details of this special collaboration jacket can be seen here.

blue blanket long john

blue blanket long john

The laurel leaf button the Blue Blanket x Long John collab denim jacket. More details of this special jacket can be seen here.

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.