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150 Years On, Levi’s 501 Jeans Are As Iconic and Enduring As Ever

2023 marks the 150th anniversary of Levi’s® 501® jeans, one of the most enduring icons of global style and the original template from which all other jeans have descended.

The 501® Original has been worn by millions of changemakers, risk-takers, experimenters, thinkers, icons, and creatives over the course of its brilliant 150-year history.

To commemorate the countless stories – from the mundane to the momentous – of fans in their 501® jeans, Levi’s® is launching The Greatest Story Ever Worn campaign, a year-long celebration.

As part of the launch of the campaign, Levi’s® is releasing three short films, directed by Martin de Thurah and Melina Matsoukas, titled The Greatest Story Ever Worn, that explore original stories from around the world celebrating 150 years of 501® jeans.

With these stories, as well as others inspired by true events, The Greatest Story Ever Worn celebrates the 501® jeans’ incredible past and its role in countless historical, cultural, and personal moments in order to inspire a new generation to write the next chapter.

The Greatest Story Ever Worn presents 501® jeans as an ever-expanding story, written and rewritten by everyone who fastens up the fifth button.

More than a pair of jeans, they are not just one person’s story, but everyone’s story. This ever-expanding narrative features a collection of characters, events, ambitions, and memories from everyday heroes to unbelievable icons.  

“Few products, let alone pieces of clothing, have been as consistently present for so many human experiences, for as long as the 501®. Coming from the humblest of beginnings as workwear pants, Levi’s® 501® jeans have become a blank canvas for self-expression that transcends the boundaries of culture, and class,” said Chris Jackman, VP of Brand Marketing, Levi’s.

“This is an incredible moment and milestone for the Levi’s® brand and through The Greatest Story Ever Worn campaign we aim to celebrate the legacy of the 501®, its unrivaled breadth and global relevance, and to inspire the next chapters.” – Chris Jackman, VP of Brand Marketing, Levi’s,” he added.

The first historically based film, Precious Cargo, shares the story of how 501® jeans made their way to Kingston, Jamaica in the 1970s and how Jamaica turned and made them uniquely their own.

Directed by Melina Matsoukas and shot by academy award nominated cinematographer Bradford Young, the film is a celebratory exploration of an island that’s distinct style, rhythm, and soul has reverberated across the globe.

“Early Levi’s spots were some of the pieces that actually inspired me to pursue commercial filmmaking. It is an honor to now be part of their cinematic legacy,” shared Melina Matsoukas.

“I always gravitate toward brands and creatives who lean into authentic storytelling and, with this piece, we were able to pay homage to a small but powerful story from the vast history of Levi’s. Everyone involved was willing to push the idea of commerciality and I believe that courage led to us creating a beautiful film,” she added.

The second film, Fair Exchange, tells the story of a beloved family bellcow and the son who swapped the beast for a pair of 501® Jeans, much to his family’s dismay.

Directed by Martin de Thurah and shot by acclaimed cinematographer Kasper Tuxen, a cold Georgian winter is the backdrop to a film that explores 501® jeans as a beacon for something bigger – a dream. 

And finally, the third film, Legends Never Die, tells the true story of one devoted Levi’s® wearer who requested to be buried in his 501® jeans – a final wish that many people have relayed to the brand over the years.

This specific fan asked all funeral attendees to wear their 501® jeans too. Also directed by Martin de Thurah, the film is a beautiful reflection on the type of collective love that would inspire a group of people to show up in denim for a beloved family member and friend.

It is a celebration of humanity and the inextricable connection between a man who truly lived in his Levi’s®  501® jeans.

“I was intrigued by the challenge to create little stories in a mini format that together tell an even bigger story. Levi’s is an iconic brand and being able to celebrate the 150th anniversary alongside my favorite people was a wonderful opportunity,” shared Martin de Thurah.

The launch of The Greatest Story Ever Worn kicks off the celebration of the 501® jeans’ 150th anniversary. More stories will be shared throughout 2023 along with milestone celebrations around the world.

Watch the films here:

Legends Never Die

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Fair Exchange

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Precious Cargo

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