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Let's talk DENIM!!!

Discussion in 'Let's Talk Denim 2005 By Route66Gal' started by route66gal, Apr 27, 2005.

  1. route66gal

    route66gal Registered Guest

    Let\'s talk DENIM!!!

    <center><img src="http://members.sparedollar.com/route66gal/Denimworkshop.jpg"><br>
    A.Y. Owen - Boys with their First Car<p>

    We are currently in the middle of a denim renaissance, and no denim is more valuable than vintage. It is now possible to spend $600 on a pair of new jeans that are an attempt by manufacturers at recreating the look and feel of vintage jeans. But by the day, as more people keep an eye out for them, vintage jeans are getting more and more difficult to come by. Dealers who have been selling vintage jeans for years have far-reaching contacts, making it close to impossible to come upon pieces in places that you might traditionally find other vintage clothing. And of course, due to the utilitarian nature of these garments, fewer people held onto their jeans over the years. I'm not an expert, but I have sold quite a few denim items at a price of $200 and up. I hope that this workshop gives a bit of an overview on how to recognize valuable vintage denim when you come across it, however likely or unlikely the case may be! <p>

    There are volumes upon volumes of information on the history of denim. Rather than rehash that info here, I'll give some good reference links and book titles at the end of the post. Today I'll start with some hints on what to look for in Levis jeans, the grandaddy of them all. As the week goes on, I'll do my best to answer questions and talk about other brands, most notably Lee and Wrangler, as well as items other than jeans, including jackets and coveralls.<p>

    <FONT SIZE=6><center><b>Today's Topic - LEVIS</b></center></font><p>

    When you start to look at vintage Levis, you'll notice there are a lot of details that buyers want to know in order to determine market value. You might be surprised to know that jeans can have a "small e" and/or date to the 1980s and still be valuable. Of course, most jeans from the 80s are *not* valuable. You just need to know what details to look for to determine that value is there. There is some conflicting information out there on exactly *when* certain details were changed, and heaven knows there are a lot of people more knowledgeable than me on exact dates, so I'll focus more on details that I have found to matter when figuring out if a piece is desirable. You'll find that dating an item really doesn't matter - the market knows what it's looking for. I've found it's best just to list the details with clear pictures and not worry so much about trying to put a date on them. The people with the $$ will find your jeans if you list them on ebay, trust me. <p>

    <b>1) The denim: </b><br>
    The first thing you notice with vintage denim - and the best way to spot it in a huge pile - is that the color and texture of the material differs quite a bit from current denim. The differences come from changes in the yarn spinning process from ring spinning to open end spinning. Ring spinning was used until the late 60s, and created a more rugged, slubbier, less uniform denim. Synthetic indigo dyes were invented in the late 19th century, and while they have evolved over the years, it's really the yarn spinning technique that gives vintage denim its unique qualities. This is something that is really difficult to see in photos, as denim is notoriously difficult to capture accurately. This is something that comes with firsthand encounters of vintage denim, so take a trip to a local vintage shop that carries denim - you'll get the picture! <p>

    <b>2) Redline selvage: </b><br>
    The first thing I ever learned about vintage denim came from hanging out in the rockabilly scene. Fashionable RAB guys cuff their jeans - and they ain't jeans if they ain't got redline selvage. (There are some interesting, if not completely accurate, threads on selvage in jeans at <a href=http://www.superfuture.com/city/supertalk/index.cfm?page=forum&forumID=2&start=1 target="_blank">Supershopper</a>. They do have some VERY knowledgeable denim people there, though!)Anyhoo...when you cuff the jeans, look at the outer seam. This is redline selvage: <p>

    <center><img src="http://members.sparedollar.com/route66gal/3_5_02(1).jpg"><br>What's that you say? You don't see a red line? Once upon a time, it probably looked like this: <br>
    <img src="http://members.sparedollar.com/route66gal/redline1.jpg"><br>but washing and storage may have faded that red line. That's okay, it's still considered "redline selvage". Compare to what you see in today's Levis: <br><img src="http://members.sparedollar.com/route66gal/notredline.jpg"><p></center><br>
    Most sources agree that redline selvage was present in Levis until 1982.<p>

    <b>3) The Red Tab: </b><br>
    Found on the side of the back right pocket, the red tab can be another indicator of age and value. <br>
    <center><img src="http://members.sparedollar.com/route66gal/3_5_03(1).jpg"><br>Big E - this tab may be printed on one side on earlier jeans, or both sides with the back text upside down. <p>
    <img src="http://members.sparedollar.com/route66gal/etab.jpg"><br>Small e - this tab made its debut in the 1971. <p>
    <img src="http://members.sparedollar.com/route66gal/Rtab.jpg"><br></center>The ® tab is fairly common. I believe that it, along with orange tabs, was used in the 70s and 80s for a time. In any case, like the small "e", this is no reason to rule out high value (this tab came from a pair that went for approximately $200), but definitely not a reason to expect high value. <p>

    <b>4) Back of top button: </b>
    The back of the top button on Levis can tell a lot about the age and value. <p>
    <center><img src="http://members.sparedollar.com/route66gal/3_5_05(1).jpg"><br>Single digits are desirable. Three digit numbers are later and/or repros.</center><p>

    <b>5)Leather or paper back patch: </b>
    There are so many variations here, that I'm going to refer to <a href=http://vintagemotorcyclejackets.com/501xx-tags.htm target="_blank">Vintage Motorcycle Jackets' excellent chart</a><p>

    <b>6) Hidden rivets: </b><br>
    <center><img src="http://members.sparedollar.com/route66gal/OCT-134.jpg"><br>Inside the jeans, check where the back pockets are attached. Do you see copper or silver-tone rivets? If so, these are what is referred to as "hidden rivets". <br>
    <img src="http://members.sparedollar.com/route66gal/levirodeo8.jpg"><br>Close-up of hidden rivet</center><p>

    <b>7)Single Stitching vs. Chain Stitching</b><br>
    There are two places where you may see differences in stitching - in the back waistband and inside the back pockets. Examples here are inside the back pockets. <p>

    <center><img src="http://members.sparedollar.com/route66gal/SingleStitch2.jpg"><br>Single stitching is found in older jeans. <p>

    <img src="http://members.sparedollar.com/route66gal/chainstitch2.jpg"><br>Chain stitching is found in newer jeans.<p></center>

    <b>8) Offset back belt loop: </b><br>
    <center><img src="http://members.sparedollar.com/route66gal/levirodeo11.jpg"><br>Older jeans have an offset belt loop in the back, as earlier sewing machines could not handle that much denim material. (Note: the suspender button off to the side is unusual here - these were custom made rodeo clown pants - also used in the hidden rivet pics above.)<p></center>

    <b>9) Crotch rivet and buckle back: </b><br>
    These pictures are taken from a pair of repros of the 1937 201XX Levis that I had.<br>
    <center><img src="http://members.sparedollar.com/route66gal/buckle1A(1).jpg"> <br>The crotch rivet ended up not being very practical - it rumor has it that it wasn't very comfortable for cowboys sitting by the campfire. In any case, WWII rationing finally did this little detail in. (Sorry about the lack of a closeup - but I'm sure you get the idea.)<p>
    <img src="http://members.sparedollar.com/route66gal/buckle4A(1).jpg"> <br>The buckle, or cinch back was much more practical than the crotch rivet. Rather than wear a belt, one could simply cinch the jeans to fit in the back. This, too, was done in by wartime rationing. Another note on rationing - during WWII, the infamous Levis arcuate stitching was replaced by paint. <p></center>

    Just because I loved these so much, I'll include pics of the 50s custom made rodeo clown jeans I sold last year. These had a 46" waist, and measured 24" from the waist to the crotch - thus the suspender buttons that usually aren't seen on 50s Levis. <br>

    <center><img src="http://members.sparedollar.com/route66gal/OCT-124.jpg"><p>

    <b>A few excellent links:</b><br>
    <a href=http://vintagemotorcyclejackets.com/index-denim.htm target="_blank">Vintage Motorcycle Jackets (and denim, too!) </a><br>
    <a href=http://denimjunkies.com/index.htm target="_blank">Denim Junkies</a><br>
    <a href=http://farley.com/ target="_blank">Farley.com</a><br>
    <a href=http://superfuture.com/city/supertalk/ target="_blank"> Supershopper message board here - some true denim junkies reside here <br>
    <a href=http://www.levistrauss.com/anniversary/main.html target="_blank">Levis Anniversary Page</a><br>
    <a href=http://www.levistrauss.com/about/history/denim.htm target="_blank">Levis History Page</a><br>
    <a href=http://www.levistrauss.com/about/history/timeline.asp target="_blank">Levis Timeline</a><br>
    <a href=http://www.olah.com/ target="_blank">Denim Survival Guide</a><br>
    <a href=http://www.wrangler-europe.com/BlueBell/eu/BBhome.html target="_blank">Wrangler Blue Bell Page</a><p>

    Unfortunately, I get an "account has been suspended" at one of the best online references I've seen - http://www.milkybitz.com/levis.htm . Hope to find up what's up with them soon. <p>

    Book links and LOTS MORE to come...</center><p>

    At this point, I'll go ahead and open it up for questions on Levis jeans. The details that determine value for Levis could fill volumes - but these are the basics on what I look for when looking at Levis.
  2. :clapping:
    Oh, this is wonderful!
    I am so looking forward to this workshop.
    That last link worked for me (milky) but your farley link is broken.

    I've never found any vintage denim, but I confess I never take the time to go through the racks and racks of denim (aside from jackets).

    When faced with several racks of jeans, what would you suggest as a quick indicator (as opposed to checking each and every pair)?

  3. Shygarden

    Shygarden VFG Member

    I've been looking forward to this too!

    I know a little about vintage Levi's, but to have it all laid out like this is just fantastic!

  4. gaildavid

    gaildavid VFG Member

    :clapping: Super information! :clapping:

    I currently have a vintage pair of "new" denim jeans up for bid on ebay....no bid yet :sniff: It ends this afternoon. I am already calculating any changes necessary for a relist.

    Great workshop!

  5. I agree Marie, i am so daunted by a huge rack of jeans.
    and i really don't know how the feel is different as in the rack, you have so many variations of "worn in", not worn in and they will feel different anyhow. I have a pair of 50s gals jeans but they are not Levi's so i really don't know if that follows the same different feel rule.

    And of course, due to the utilitarian nature of these garments, fewer people held onto their jeans over the years.

    These people aren't in my family apparently, where some family members can't give up a good fitting pair of jeans until they practically disintegrate LOL

    Now you will probably cover all this in the next few days so ignore if you already are, but I am wondering about the "big E". didn't i hear at one point (but my ears could be a big clogged) that the "big e" showed up on repro jeans as well?
  6. route66gal

    route66gal Registered Guest

    Fixed the Farley link - thanks!

    Marie, I wish I had an answer for you - I usually just look at the denim, and vintage denim stands out for me. I guess that's an acquired thing - unfortunately, looking at racks and piles of denim for details is quite time consuming and almost always yields nothing. Sometimes with Levis, you can sort of see the outline of stiff selvage from the outside in the outer leg - that's a good indicator without having to look inside the cuff on every pair, or inside for hidden rivets and the like. But really, nothing beats getting to know the look and feel of ring-spun yarns in vintage denim.

    Gail, it's so hard to tell what collectors might be looking for in the secondary brands like Carter's. I often check Farley's hot items list (on the left side of the frame) to see what things are going for. Generally, the big 3 are Levis, Lee, and Wrangler - but sometimes some of the other brands are touch and go. I usually start vintage jeans off at $9.99, just to keep the insertion fees low. You can always trust that you'll get fair market value. Even if you don't have all of the details that someone needs to determine their top dollar, they'll come to you and ask.

    Chris, repros do have the big E. You can't really tell in the pic below, but those buckleback repros I have below have a big E. Repros have all of the features of the original items they are reproductions of, with a couple of exceptions. One is the number on the back of the top button - it will be 3 digits. There's supposed to be a way to tell by the red tab - something about the placement of the apostrophe - but I looked and couldn't really see the difference. The main thing is that top button. Repros are worth picking up - they won't go for as much as the originals, of course, but they aren't cheap and it's not very common to find them. I think mine went for around $75.

    Chris, what brand are your ladies' jeans?

  7. My goodness i need to go pull them out and get back to you. I *WANT* to say something like Dungerettes/Dungrettes but i could be way off and could have just heard that name last. I bought them thinking that i could squeeze into jeans that were my exact physical hip measurement LOL and have been searching for a pair an inch or two bigger ever since. they still have the big paper tag on the back.

    I'll post when i get my hands on them at some point today

    Follow up question: are repro jeans like commemorative stamps at the post office, whereas the post office makes most of them because they know collectors will have to have them and buy them up? They didn't make them just to see if they woudl catch on in other words.

  8. This is a wonderful workshop! Makes me want to run out to my favorite thrift and check only denim!
  9. gaildavid

    gaildavid VFG Member

    Thanks for the info, Melanie. Live and learn.....I spent way too much money at the antique store for these jeans.... :violins:

  10. bartondoll

    bartondoll Guest

    Melanie, thank you so much for doing this workshop. I am hopelessly
    ignorant on vintage denim, so appreciate this so much.

    Farley.com link worked for me.

  11. will acid washed levi's ever be desirable LOL just kidding...

    did levi's do a lot of custom work, or are your rodeo pants really a true rarity?
  12. One more question before i run out of questions alloted me LOL. in teh last few years it was announced or it has happened that Levi's was selling off "dockers" to JCPenneys and was planning a lower line of jeans that were going to be made overseas and would cease to be making all the jeans as we know it. I had seen a few people make a mad rush to buy up pants thinking they would be worth something big someday. I don't really remember the whole story or all the details, but do you think more recent levi's that we see as run of the mill will be collectible someday because of the factors.

    Or do you think it will be like a designer who had their "heydey" in a particualr time and their later stuff just is too numerous and not really the same representation so even if they are not around it won't amount to a hill of beans?
  13. route66gal

    route66gal Registered Guest

    Chris, the first time I was ever aware of repros was back in '97 or so, when a RAB guy friend of mine dragged me to a Levis store to purchase one of the two pairs of a particular line of repros that they received in stock. They were selling for $100. I see it as a collector thing, very much like commemorative stamps! There's a line called LVC - Levis Vintage Clothing. If you go to Levis USA and click on the "Other Levi Strauss & Co Sites" pop up menu in the lower left corner, you can get to Levis Vintage Clothing site. It's a super-duper flash site, be forewarned. Anyway, collectors dig this stuff!

  14. route66gal

    route66gal Registered Guest

    I'm not sure how rare it was for Levis to do custom work like the rodeo clown jeans. I called and asked them about them - but they went through the whole "send us a picture" thing, and I really just wanted to get them sold. I think they went for $325. The best Levis collectibles are really the wearable items - and those pants just weren't very practical, LOL!

    A couple of years ago, Levis announced that they were closing all of their US plants and going with cheap labor elsewhere. I believe that process was completed at the beginning of '04. They have started a cheaper line of jeans that sells in Wal Mart - the Signature label - you have probably seen these. But I think you're going to see more premium jeans come down the pike from them, since expensive designer jeans are back. They just need to be able to compete with low-end, mid-range, and high end jeans manufacturers. I don't think they're disappearing any time soon. They just have more competition than ever.

  15. bigchief

    bigchief Alumni


    This is great! How fast did I save your first post? Remember the Roadrunner cartoons?

    Looking forward to more!


  16. ourbabyroo

    ourbabyroo Registered Guest

    Ditto to what Carolyn said!

    This has been very informative...and it will stay bookmarked for a long time! :)
  17. cotmyey

    cotmyey VFG Member

    Regarding the 'apostrophe' on the reproduction BIG E jeasn/etc. I've been trying to find the pic/statement that I read on eBay's? board/somewhere? a few weeks ago. So far, my snoopin' hasn't paid off.

    It was in reference to the position and the way the 'apostrophe' was made. I'm still trying to find it! If I remember properly(sometimes I really do!)--<s>On the repro-ones the ' has a smaller head, is lower & closer to the S.</s>~~~~~~One of the most prominent way to see a vintage big E tab is by the " ' " that separates the S from LEVI. The vintage red tab uses " ' " and the reissue uses " , " which has a bigger and more squarish head. ~~~~~~~

    Okay, it was on milkybitz, but I can't view it on the net!, I have to view it through a cached page! the milky site seems to be missing in action! for me ~~504 Gateway Timeout~~
  18. This has been a fabulous workshop so far Melanie!! Thanks for all your work!

    I have yet to be motivated enough to look through a gazillion pairs of jeans at the thrifts! I applaude those of you with the will and patience to do so!!!! :clapping:
  19. route66gal

    route66gal Registered Guest

    My apologies for not being around much this week...my week became quite busy and stressful, so if we don't cover everything by Tuesday night, I'd be glad to continue answering questions. I'll be launching part 2 tomorrow with info on jackets and brands other than Levis. In the meantime, please feel free to post questions, items of note, whatever you'd like!

    Gayle, thanks so much! I knew I wasn't imagining it. It stinks that milkybitz is down... it's a great resource!

  20. I am looking forward to hearing about jackets. Those are much easier to spot because there are usually less of em to wade through :)

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