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Let's talk DENIM!!!

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

  1. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    BTW...don't worry about the timing...you are doing a great job!
  2. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    I guess i do have more questions (suprised)

    Firstly, i would like to know about condition. are collectors only looking for it if it is pristine, or what level of condition is acceptable. obviously, best condition possible, and i would not sell anything with holes in it, but jeans, once worn and washed tend to soften up, etc, or lighten. on the older jeans how much of that comes into play, as there would probably be few older pairs that are truly "new old stuck" or were never unfolded and tried on as they were purchased for working and hanging around and not like an evening bag that might never have been used if they didn't match the lady's outfit.

    Follow up, are there any other special things we should know about different "cuts" ?
  3. route66gal

    route66gal Registered Guest

    Good questions, Chris!

    Condition, in my experience, really is not an issue. Do not pass up a pair of vintage Levis, Wranglers, or Lee's just because of some rips or holes! Sometimes the "character" of the jeans can keep the value up, even if the condition isn't pristine. These, for example have been patched up quite a bit and aren't in the best condition, but went for $223. (Apologies if they pull the pics before everyone can see them - it's a closed auction!) One of the cool things about vintage denim is that it does age in ways that new denim doesn't. New denim lines put so much effort into distressing, but nothing ages like the real thing. So my take on this is to never pass up anything vintage by the big 3, no matter the condition.

    I have found that age trumps cut in terms of value. "Lot numbers" like 501 were used to differentiate styles, but they were really more what we would consider "model numbers". 201's, for example, were sort of a cheaper version of 501s with simpler stitching and such - but the cut was basically the same. Lot numbers generally denoted small differences, such as the type of fly - zipper or button. Levi 501s went through a lot of changes over the years - the very first were known as "waist overalls" and had suspender buttons, the buckle/cinch back, and four pockets - one in back, two regular front pocket and a watch pocket. This changed over the years, obviously. The earliest 501s were designed with miners in mind, but later, 501s became closely associated with cowboys. Much later, in the late 60s, Levis launched 517 bootcut jeans as well as bell bottoms - and that's when different cuts really started to surface.

  4. fuzzylizzie

    fuzzylizzie Alumni


    First, THANKS for all the great and useful information.

    What about color? Were the dyes used different in vintage jeans? Can you possibly spot vintage jeans by color?

  5. route66gal

    route66gal Registered Guest

    Now I'll talk a bit about the other 2 biggies in jeans - Lee and Wrangler. For the remainder of the workshop, rather than post a lot of photos, I'm going to link to a lot of photos because I haven't been lucky enough to have my own mitts on many valuable items, I've just studied up on them...and I don't have permission to post pics here. Please do post your pics with questions, though - the more pics the better!

    Lee Jeans
    Lee got its start in 1911 with what we now refer to as overalls or coveralls. They started competing with Levi Strauss in the mid 20s with their "101 Cowboy Waistband Overalls" which were really a complete ripoff of Levi 501s, right down to the arcuate on the pockets.

    With Lee jeans, there are a few things that you'll want to look for. The first is by looking at the trademark mark on the faux leather patch on the back. (If you see an early "hair on hide" patch on the back, jackpot!) Early Lees won't have a trademark (the "R" in a circle). In the 60s, Lees had just the R, and after the 60s, the patch had the R and an "M.R." Click on the "Online Guide to Vintage Clothing" and then "Lee Pants" link for detail pics. When faced with a mountain of Lee jeans, this is the quick test I suggest using.

    Wrangler Jeans
    Wrangler was a name that was owned by a small company, and was acquired by Blue Bell corporation in the 40s. Designer Rodeo Ben (see part 1 of the rockabilly workshop for more on Rodeo Ben) revolutionized the boot cut for Wrangler cowboy wear.

    So how do you know if your Wranglers are valuable? The most valuable of Wranglers will have the Blue Bell logo in at least one of two places - on the back faux leather patch, or inside the jeans by the fly. I was lucky enough to have a pair of the latter:


    You'll see that in this example from the 60s, the Blue Bell logo is tilted. On earlier labels, the blue bell logo was straight. Farley has good examples of this as well - click on the Wranglers link

    So there's a super-quick and dirty guide to Lee and Wrangler and what to look for. Again, there are many details, but maybe this will give you an idea of how to identify keepers quickly.
    Rea Fawaz likes this.
  6. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    this is very informative because i always had the impression that Lee was a second cousin to Levi's and Wrangler and not really sought after like the other two. In fact i don't think i have seen any pre-1980 Lee jeans. Thanks for the education.

    I too am interested in color like Lizzie as far as the difference in indigo. (is there a way to tell the older by looking at the bleed through on the inside too). I also wanted to know: when did the light blue denim jeans come out? i don't think i really have seen that earlier then...hmmm..possibly 70s? And when would you say jeans really became a fashion item rather than just a work item?
  7. route66gal

    route66gal Registered Guest

    Good question, Lizzie!

    Synthetic indigo dyes were introduced around the turn of the century. Before the 1920s, natural indigo dyes were mainly used for jeans. Synthetic dyes changed some over the years, but the use of indigo dyes has been pretty consistent. Indigo has a unique quality in that the dye sits on the surface rather than penetrating the fibers, which gives jeans their fading qualities. It's the spinning processes and the types of twill that give vintage jeans their unique look and feel. The qualities of the fade are different for vintage jeans, but color itself isn't really an indicator.

    Here's a closeup of a pocket of a vintage 60s big E denim jacket.


    You'll notice that the fade is uneven and streaky. This is really a product of various factors unique to vintage denim - but you'll see the same colors in many newer products. Does that make sense?

    Rea Fawaz likes this.
  8. gaildavid

    gaildavid VFG Member

  9. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    Ithink i get it. Modern jeans usually fade all over pretty evenly...these seem to have completely lost their dye in some places and not others versus gradually shedding it over time?
  10. route66gal

    route66gal Registered Guest

    Chris, I think the lighter blue jeans first became popular in the 70s, but I do think that there were instances of lighter denim over earlier years. I know that our very own b*a*vintagequeen had some lighter blue Levi's that weren't denim from the 50s - but I think that as for the kind we think of today, the 70s were really when they made their big splash.

    Today, a lot of manufacturers use sulfur dyes underneath the indigo to give new jeans a vintage-y cast, but I don't think it really works, personally. It gives them more of a brownish-yellow tint.

  11. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    It gives them more of a brownish-yellow tint.

    Oh, you mean that :"i just fell off a horse" shading that has been popular in modern jeans the past couple of years?
  12. fuzzylizzie

    fuzzylizzie Alumni

    Thanks for the answer about color.. Very helpful!

    I have another question... We've all seen those auctions for some old barn jacket that went for $1000+. Can you give us some insights on that phenomenon?
  13. route66gal

    route66gal Registered Guest

    Hi, everyone - huge apologies for being out of pocket the past few days - I've had lots going on that I hadn't planned on.

    Anyway, yes, Chris, that "just fell off a horse" thing is exactly what I'm talking about. Personally, I don' think it makes them look vintage, just dirty. :P

    Lizzie, excellent question on the chore jackets. It is an interesting phenomenon for sure. It can be tough to tell the age on these, because companies like Carhartt, Dickies, Big Ben and Big Smith still make them, and sometimes they *look* a lot like the ones that go for big bucks. I have yet to find one myself - the trouble with workwear is that most people threw it away when they bought new jackets - but if I were looking, I'd just stay away from any brands that I knew were still making chore jackets today. I know Lee Jelt Denim chore jackets go for big bucks - jelt denim was a super-strong weave they developed in the 20s.

    But as for finding these to resell - generally, I would probably buy any that I know aren't being made today. Not the best guideline, but I haven't closely followed workwear like this. I know brands like Hercules by Sears and PayDay by Penney's are older workwear brands, and might do pretty well.

  14. lorraine

    lorraine Registered Guest

    Hi ... well, this is a question about a Levi's women's shirt I have (it's not denim, but ... ) It's a black, western style, with little flower print, polyester/triacetate mix, got a black tab on the breast pocket, with a big E. The 'Levi's' logo is stitched in metallic. Pearl snap buttons & 'Miss Levi's' label ... is it a repro? Any info would be greatly appreciated. I'm clueless on it! Thanks.
  15. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    the trouble with workwear is that most people threw it away when they bought new jackets

    That is so true, i didn't think about that. but living in farm country you don't find too many because of that very reason.

    I saw a few NWT pants that said "sanfordized" on the tags, but didin't buy them. They felt so thin and papery to me.

    I know that sanfordized jeans generate some interest...what exactly does that mean??

    ANd Lorraine...do you have a picture?
  16. marthascloset

    marthascloset Alumni

    Pictures of Levi\'s Shirt ...

  17. noir_boudoir

    noir_boudoir Registered Guest

  18. marthascloset

    marthascloset Alumni

  19. route66gal

    route66gal Registered Guest

    Hi, Lorraine -

    What a cool shirt! I've seen those black pocket big E tabs with the metallic lettering before, but nothing that looks like that "Miss Levi's" label ever before. It *looks* mighty 70s to me, from the collar to the fabric, but it's hard to tell for sure. That would be my guess. Although I doubt there's a huge collector base for this, you might want to contact Levi's directly at 1-800-USA-LEVI and just ask them about the label just because it's so unique!

  20. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    Maybe it would crossover for the westernwear/rockabilly crowd if not a true Levis' collectible..at least not yet?

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