The birth of the Levi’s 506XX Jeans jacket

One of the most iconic denim jackets ever made is the Levi’s Jeans jacket Lot Number 506XX. The 506XX jacket was originally introduced in 1905. Actually they didn’t call it a jacket in those times, but a blouse. It was made of 9oz. unsanforized Amoskeag Manufacturing Company double heavy extra strong quality, that explains the XX. It was around 1917 that the term Number One (Type 1) was used for this Levi’s 506XX Jacket. The switch from the word blouse into jacket came in 1938 when the word jacket was used in the western wear catalog, Dude Ranch Duds.

Old advertising with the Levi’s 506XX jacket. Notice the price of $2,-.

Old Levi’s Jeans cowboys advertising. Note from the advertising: ‘There are lots of blue jeans, but there’s only one Levi’s, the original cowboys pants’.

Details from the Levi’s 506XX Jeans jacket

The Levi’s Jeans 506XX jacket has a simple, but timeless classic design. The fit of the jacket is short and boxy with pleats on the front. The horizontal seams holding down the pleats which could be removed to give the wearer extra room. The first edtions of the 506XX models has only one front pocket, a silver buckle cinch in the back and no flap covering the front pocket. The later models of the 506XX jacket has a flap over the pocket, rivets in the corners for strength and a bronze buckle back. The silver editions became more valuable than the bronze ones.

The famous Red Tab – Big E – appeared on the 506XX models in 1936, the year Levi’s introduced the famous Red Tab. The word Levi’s was only written on one side of the Red Tab. This changed by the birth of the follow-up jacket in 1953, the 507XX model (also known as Type 2). During WorldWar II Levi’s simplified the 506XX jacket to save materials (metal, fabric and thread) for the War. They skipped the flap above the pocket, and they used 4 buttons on the jacket instead of 5. The buttons on the ‘War’ edition had donut buttons featuring laurel leaves, this as a symbol of peace.

Laurel leaf button on a pair of LVC 501 fit 1944. Pic by End Clothing.

Different Versions Of The 506XX Jacket

Levi’s Jeans made in total 6 different versions of the 506XX jacket in the past;

Version #1: 1905 – Release of the original first version.
Version #2: 1928 – The pocket flap was introduced.
Version #3: 1936 – The Red Tab was introduced for the first time, but without ‘R’ and ‘LEVIS’ (Big E) only on one side of the tab.
Version #4: 1941 – During WWII Levi’s Jeans removed the pocket flap and added donut buttons to simplify the jacket.
Version #5: 1944 – The cinch back slider was introduced for the first time.
Version #6: 1947 – The pocket flap was reintroduced.

Replica Levi’s 506XX – 1936 version – jacket from the Levi’s Vintage Clothing collection. The jacket is made from rigid 10 ounce (after washing 12 ounce) selvage Cone Mills fabric.

Famous people wearing Levi’s 506XX jeans jacket

The Levi’s Jeans 506XX jacket was a companion to work trousers. They became very popular amongst farmers and labor workers and later for cowboys too. From the ’40’s, and later, famous people as actors and singers were spotted wearing the Levi’s 506XX jacket. It was a style for the true rebels.

Singer and actor Bing Crosby

Actor Robert Mitchum

Young Mick Jagger wearing the 506XX jacket

Original vintage Levi’s 506XX Jeans jacket from the ’40’s

This original vintage Levi’s 506XX (Type 1) Jeans jacket is part of my private denim collection. The jacket was first in hands from a Levi’s Jeans collector from Texas. He bought the jacket from a farmer family when they cleaned the abandoned house from a family farmer member after he died. The farmer wore this jacket while working on his farm. The jacket has an extremely light natural sun bleach look from working for years on his land. The jacket shows a lot of rusty spots as the old abandoned farm was very soggy.

Almost all the buttons are broken and missing, only a few are left. The jacket has a bronze buckle back, with slider instead of pin teeth, and has still the ‘one side’ LEVIS – Big E – written Red Tab. The worn-out frayed cuffs are reinforced with rivets for extra strength. The red line in the selvage on the inside is completely washed-out. The fabric is in pretty good condition as you realise that its used for hard labor on the land during the ’40’s. This original vintage Levi’s 506XX Jeans jacket is a perfect example of the American workers lifestyle.

Read also the articles about the history of the Type 2 – 507XX – jacket here and 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.