Sand Storm: In Praise of Tan Levi’s

As spring inches nearer, you may be considering wearing white denim (if only around the house). Or maybe not. In that case, consider a pair of tan jeans. They have the advantage of being a neutral basic like khakis, but more hearty, in case you end up in a wrestling match over the last roll of toilet paper.

I first put up this post back in 2011, and have gone through much evolution in trad style since then. But, sure enough, since arriving at my “country cottage” in Newport I’ve acquired two pairs of tan Levi’s 5-pockets this winter, which I’ve been wearing with thick crewnecks and dress boots.

Because of the virus, things are going to get hairy, and in more ways than one. Yesterday I saw a news item predicting that in a few months we’ll see a revival of ’70s-style long hair and beards, as we get back to work after having been cooped up without access to a barber. Future historians will call it the quarantine grooming trend of 2020.

Before the virus struck, we’d been reporting here about a nascent Ivy Trendwatch. It can still happen, though with one key modification. There should be dash of survivalist workwear, for what the Japanese call “rugged Ivy.” — CC

And if madras is still more your speed, check out Country Club Prep’s madras page and “staycation sale” here.

44 Comments on "Sand Storm: In Praise of Tan Levi’s"

  1. Anonymous | May 19, 2011 at 3:50 pm |

    A nice way to dress a casual weekend! But personally, I’d rather pick chinos or white jeans – when it comes to casual springtime outfits. Of course with socks, too.

    The brown loafers go lovely with the clubmaster sunglasses! Is the belt made of the same leather as your shoes?

    Yours,
    Korbinian

  2. Christian | May 19, 2011 at 3:53 pm |

    Belt is dark brown, shoes burgundy.

  3. Tan jeans with a jacket and tie. Hmm. That sounds better than indigo jeans the same way.

    Not being a jeans-wearing kind of guy, I go for “stone”-colored chinos. Like white, they show every little smudge, but are nowhere near as, uh, exuberant as white. I find that an overnight soak in Oxiclean spiffs them right up.

    And thank you for wearing socks–most of the time, anyway. It seems you’ve nailed the accesorization of these pants (ick! the word “trews” popped into my head. I’ve got to stop reading so many men’s style blogs…).

  4. Sebastian | May 19, 2011 at 4:46 pm |

    Those loafers are great! where are they from?

  5. Which model number did you get?

  6. Jeans and Ivy?

    On the one hand, we try to distinguish ourselves from the backward baseball cap and dungaree-wearing crowd via our preference for chinos (or khakis, as we purists prefer to call them) and on the other hand we try to find excuses for wearing dungarees.

    Forgive me if I seem confused.

  7. Were cargo pants common in Ivy Days – 1950s and early 60s as casual wear. I can’t wear chinos you can see prominently which side I dress.

  8. Tan Levi’s? Very Interesting, tasteful. What kind of watch is that? It looks like a modern watch to me, being a bit oversized. I like vintage rectangular watches. When I was in high school, my Dad gave me his 1947 rectangular gold Wittnauer, and I’ve been wearing it ever since. I’ve had it repaired 3 times in the 45 years I’ve had it, including a total overhaul with dial refinish and a lizard strap. The watch still looks and runs like new. Although I have a handful of watches, I wear his most of all.

    A couple of years ago, I bought an oversized rectangular watch. Looks great in the box, but I think too big for my wrist, and I’m 6′ 3″. I’ve only wore it a couple of times. Cheers!

  9. @Martin

    To eliminate a prominent demonstration of which side you dress, might I suggest Lands’ End Traditional cut (“classic and roomy”).
    I myself prefer them pleated as well since pleated trousers are cut for conservative gentlemen, rather than prepschool youngsters.

  10. Christian | May 20, 2011 at 9:10 am |

    @RKW: 501s. Added to the story. Thanks for spotting omission.

    @Corona: I’ve never been against jeans for ideological reasons. Also, I hardly think wearing chinos is some heroic act of defiance against mass slovenliness.

    @Wriggles: Watch is kind of a secret as I may write about it at some point.

  11. FYI: You can remove the “Ray-Ban” logo (which was added sometime in the 1980’s) from the lens of your Clubmasters with fine steel wool. I did it myself to my own pair several years ago. Just first make sure that they haven’t switched to plastic lenses!

  12. Louise Church | May 21, 2011 at 5:45 am |

    Totally love the look Mr C. I shall go get for my beau tout-de-suite. Many thanks for the tip. Louise. XXX

  13. Woofboxer | May 23, 2011 at 1:55 am |

    A great style for the season Christian. You continue to demonstrate on here that an Ivy look is accessible to all, not just the hunters of rare and exclusive vintage items.

    @Corona – the ‘Take Ivy’ book contains plenty of photos of guys sporting light colour 5 pocket jeans. Wear them with pride!

  14. I like the trousers. In late ’70s Ivy, lots of people wore Levi’s corduroy jeans, most frequently in tan. They were extremely popular. For some reason this is not often mentioned.

  15. Christian | May 23, 2011 at 7:04 am |

    @Woofie — Thanks, mate.

  16. Is the watch a Reverso? Cartier Tank?

  17. Keeping us in suspense?! I hope you’ll tell us. It looks nice and I am a watch junky.

  18. Thought I was unique! Found a thrift pair and had em shortened- right outta take ivy and damn confy.

  19. Charlottesville | April 2, 2020 at 1:17 pm |

    Good re-post for the season, Christian. I have white 501s which I wear in the summer, but tan would be good for this in-between time. Tan and white jeans were both popular in the 60s and can be seen in 1965’s Take Ivy, as noted above by Woofboxer. The question remains whether anyone over 30 should be wearing jeans, to which I say, absolutely, so long as they are clean, fit well and are worn with appropriate companion pieces, as shown in the ensemble above. Skin-tight versions with ripped knees and baggy dad jeans with elastic waists are another matter, but to each his own.

    As for the watch, did you ever post about it? I have a rectangular Hamilton, circa 1950-something as far as I can tell. It’s a good, classic look that is still somewhat distinctive.

  20. It’s chilly here this week. Yesterday I wore my tan jeans with a navy mock neck sweater.

  21. I would love to find a pair of white denim jeans, but haven’t seen them in years. Does anyone know if Levi’s offers them in a 505 model?

  22. Charlottesville | April 2, 2020 at 3:19 pm |

    Christian – Looks like the Sartego watches are still available on Amazon for $50 to $60. Quite a bargain, although today I am wearing a stainless steel Timex that I bought new at a closeout sale. The reasonably priced Hadley Roma leather band I ordered for it cost twice as much as the watch and the total price for watch and band with shipping came to just over $30.

    Jim — As far as I can tell from the Levis website, 505s come in tan, but 501s still come in white: https://www.levi.com/US/en_US/clothing/men/jeans/501-original-fit-mens-jeans/p/005010651?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&adpos=&camp=PLA*EC*US*EN*71700000039128124*pla*goog**:92700051926725741:LEVI&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIvN354LnK6AIVAz0MCh0UcwQsEAQYASABEgL0nvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds . I find 501s a bit full cut, but I can put up with it.

  23. MacMcConnell | April 2, 2020 at 4:50 pm |

    I have white, standard denim shrink to fit, tan and black Levi 501s. The black 501s are for motorcycling when it’s too warm to wear my black five pocket leather jeans, but too cool to wear the denim. 😉

    I’m guessing the 505s are the zipper version of the 501s. The only zipper version of “501s” we wore the sixties and seventies were the baby cord Levis. I think they still make them, but they are stretch cords.

    Lastly, Levi once made different colors of 501s occasionally. I once own a pair of fie engine red ones. Perfect for going to the KC Chiefs’ games.

  24. MacMcConnell | April 2, 2020 at 4:53 pm |

    Christian
    Is that RL bedding?

  25. Yes, I believe that collection was called Modern Duke. I tried to replicate it in my bedroom at the time. A bit much for me now.

  26. Tan jeans are the best of both worlds: a khaki color in a jean cut.

    The opposite would be denim khakis, offered by the Orvis Co.:
    https://m.orvis.com/product/denim-chino-pants/10K8

  27. Anonymouse | April 2, 2020 at 6:01 pm |

    Back in the old days, “white” levis jeans were not really white, but more of a wheat off-white color. I remember Billax pointing this out as well. Now, I only see true bright white jeans or tan like Christian posted.

    Does anyone know where to find the old, off-white or wheat colored jeans?

  28. whiskeydent | April 2, 2020 at 6:19 pm |

    Wrangler is another alternative. They make them in cream and a light khaki. The “cowboy cut” has a higher rise and is fuller through the legs than Levis. I wear them frequently except in the summer. Jeans are too damn hot once the temps go past 95. That’s late May to late September in Austin.

  29. @ Aonymouse Sid Mashburn has stone off white 501s

  30. Sartresky | April 2, 2020 at 7:30 pm |

    In the late ’70s, sand-colored Levi’s jean corduroys were ubiquitous among the preppy class. Regarding the “70s-style long hair and beard” thing: I recently paged through my 1980 Cornell yearbook and gosh it was frightful. There are about a half-dozen (relatively) clean-cut graduating seniors — all my fraternity brothers.

  31. MacMcConnell | April 2, 2020 at 9:17 pm |

    An.onymouse
    Actual white 501s are white, the wheat are a light tan and the tan are tan. A Levi many wore in the 1960s South was a wheat color, but not heavy like denim. The fabric was lighter and the weave was vertical like cords. Haven’t seen them since I moved from Texas in 1966.

  32. Thanks gents for your info. Much appreciated!

  33. I’m still waiting foolishly for the full rise narrow leg pants, from the article back on June 15, 2015.
    Wondering what ever happened to looking into getting these made. There must be some American manufacturers who could make them, were there a demand.

  34. Karl Mueller | April 3, 2020 at 3:58 am |

    Changing the color from blue is just an attempt at masking the reality that they’re jeans.
    Why not just remain loyal to chinos/khakis?

  35. Trevor Jones | April 3, 2020 at 5:53 am |

    I’ve always preferred chinos to jeans. Always. I currently own one pair of denim which is a wheat jean by RL — I figured if I was going with denim, might as well go stretch, too. I admit, I like them a great deal and they add variety to my wardrobe. I ordered classic blue dungarees and a pair of white (both also from RL) as well to see if I can further mix things up.

  36. Speaking of watches, I still wear the 1947 Wittnauer. Last year, my 1950’s Longines (rectangular) stopped during Easter dinner. Since I have a handful of watches to choose from, I doubt I’ll get it repaired. My next of kin can worry about it.

    However, before the current epidemic, I ordered a Chinese automatic mechanical “aviator” watch from Ebay, $18 with shipping from China. Wondered what kind of junk I’d get. Got it right around Christmas. Gold tone, brown lizard embossed band, 3 working subdial complications, and clear back to observe the running movement. Even a fake German brand name, Kronen and Sohne. It’s been running perfectly for over 3 months. I’m wearing it right now, and marvel the quality. Who needs a Bretling Navitimer?

    The only flaw I’ve found, is that the rotating bezel graduations do not line up properly, so slide rule type calculations will not be accurate. I have to remember that while on missions over the Western Front in my Sopwith Camel biplane.

    Nice watch, however, I’d advise against ordering one until the pandemic is well over. Wouldn’t want a disease laden carrier watch.

  37. Old School Tie | April 3, 2020 at 11:18 am |

    I still have a 1990 pair of 501s in “natural” which is a sort of light ecru colour. Not really white but definitely not wheat either. There are some colour imperfections in the yarn too. Just like a proper cricket sweater is not actually white but off-white.

  38. MacMcConnell | April 3, 2020 at 1:09 pm |

    Karl Mueller
    “Changing the color from blue is just an attempt at masking the reality that they’re jeans.
    Why not just remain loyal to chinos/khakis?”

    Because some Ivy style dressers actually have lives where nice chinos/khakis are not always appropriate for the task at hand or one morning they just feel like wearing jeans. For example, today I wore 501s, a button down and my Stan Smiths to the office and Weejuns in a bag. It’s raining in Kansas City and I’m loading banker boxes in to my Jeep to take to storage.
    Then there are the rodeo BBQs I occasionally attend in the summer out in Kansas. Why destroy a good pair of khakis? 😉
    In the very well dressed suburban HS I attended in the late 60s there was a tradition. No one knew how it got started, but every Thursday all the guys wore 501s instead of trousers. A girlfriend of mine commented that we all looked like convicts. She was correct, we all wore the same 501s, Creighton chambray button down with a patch & flap pocket bullet proofed starched, navy Canterbury wool surcingle belt, Adler navy socks and Logan Weejuns. We were F-ing lemmings! Compare that to the lemmingesque (is that a word?) things kids of today have.
    Part of the fun of this site is seeing the parochial taste and the total purist opinions. It’s all good, enjoy your own personal Ivy style.

  39. Wranglers five pockets in several fits and as many as seven colors are available at Boot Barn. My tan 936 slim fits are a new favorite for anytime khakis are “too dressed up,” which is often around here!

  40. Gotta agree with Karl Mueller. To me, light colored 5 pockets seem the worst of both worlds not the best. They have the light color of khakis so stain easily, but the crotch binding uncomfortableness of jeans. How do you even get something out of the front pocket when sitting down? Only reason I’d wear jeans would be to have a pair of casual pants on a work trip which did not show dirt, which I did on back to back 3 day trips to to DC in the pre Corona winter months. Still, could not wait to get them in back in the closet when I got home. I felt differently when I lived in the South and always kept one pair of relaxed fit jeans to wear, say with a black sweater or a university stripe button-down, but now that I have been in Colorado for almost 20 years, where people wear jeans to the office, weddings, and funerals, I can hardly stand the one pair I own. But I do miss the fondness I had for them back in Virginia.

  41. Michael Brady | May 28, 2020 at 7:03 pm |

    I began wearing khaki Levis a few years ago as a supplement to my summer casual wardrobe. My first pair was actually tan piece-dyed denim, but a later find was actual khaki chino cloth in the 505 model. Darned near perfect. Now I fear I’ll never find another pair.

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