Spirit of the Century: Brooks Brothers x Levi’s

Two 19th-century American heritage brands have teamed up to offer a new US-made jean. Brooks Brothers and Levis — founded in 1818 and 1853, respectively — today debuted a collaboration appropriately called Levi’s Jeans, Made In The USA For Brooks Brothers.

“For generations, nothing has conveyed the image of iconic American style more than a pair of Levi’s jeans worn with a Brooks Brothers button-down shirt,” said Lou Amendola, chief merchandising officer for Brooks, in a release. “With our exclusive jeans collection we have created something that is both authentic and timeless.”

The combination of the ultimate American workwear brand and the ultimate American establishment brand is reflected in the marketing copy, which suggests a blending of white and blue collar, of engineer and laborer, in addition to a melding of the current and simultaneous preppy and workwear trends:

No two brands have done more to outfit the men that build America than Brooks Brothers and Levi’s. Uniquely and authentically American, Levi’s Jeans and Brooks Brothers suits have been staples of American menswear through world wars and civil wars, booms and busts, and the ongoing transformation and redefinition of the American frontier. From presidents to pop artists, pioneers with a distinctly American optimism have been unwaveringly devoted to the purpose and timelessness of Brooks Brothers and Levi’s products. It’s a certain type of loyalty; a respect for the quality and integrity that is embodied in both the Levi’s “Two Horse Pull” and the Brooks Brother’s “Golden Fleece.” It’s an unquestioning faith, passed on from generation to generation, that these brands’ products are tried and proven to be good.

The jeans — which include variations on Levi’s classic 501, 505 and 514 models — are priced at $148. — CC

27 Comments on "Spirit of the Century: Brooks Brothers x Levi’s"

  1. There’s a joke to be made here which involves Brooks Brothers and the term Canadian Tuxedo (or should I say dinner jacket?).

  2. there might be “nothing more American” however most Americans won’t pay 148$ for a pair of jeans

  3. This is stupid.

  4. Dear Brooks Brothers,
    Please tell us what is different about these jeans to justify the price point, other than your gift-bow sheep logo being printed on them. Those jeans in the photo look identical to what I could get a Sears for $48.

  5. Not sure how I feel about two consecutive glorified advertisements as posts. That said – this is stupid.

  6. Christian | July 30, 2010 at 7:18 am |

    Jay, I have to disagree that the two previous posts can be fairly described as “glorified advertisements.”

    Both posts have news value and are written in a pretty detached tone. In neither did we say “this product is awesome, go out and buy it.”

    I think Ivy-Style runs more historical and cultural posts and fewer product posts than most every other style blog.

  7. This certainly isn’t a glorified advertisement! It’s notifying the people who frequent a blog based on the ivy league style about a fairly important new product offered by a brand which is a key part of the style! That said, I’m not so keen on them!

  8. $148 jeans? Ouch. No thanks.

  9. preppyerik | July 30, 2010 at 9:38 am |

    Well, this certainly marks the end of an era. Thinking historically, blue jeans became popular on college campuses in the late nineteen-sixties as a political action against the tradition collegiate style (know in these part as “ivy-style”). This sartorial protest was enacted as a show of solidarity with the working classes of America and England, who commonly wore blue jeans on the job. Brooks Brothers is the oldest of the old guard left standing, its visage only slightly altered by Thom Browne. This collaboration with Levi is very American. But, it only represents an America divided by class, full of political and ideological contradiction. After holding out so long, through a denim boom which saw Diesel and Ernest Sewn sending prices as high as eight hundred dollars for a single pair of dungarees, the question for Brooks is: why this, why now?

  10. Christian | July 30, 2010 at 9:48 am |

    OK, let me play devil’s advocate. Zachary, are the $48 Levi’s at Sears still made in the US? I’m asking because I don’t wear jeans and don’t know. I think I’ve heard production has gone overseas.

    Made in the US comes with a premium. Some are willing to pay that premium for perceived better quality or for consumer patriotism.

    Preppyerik, yes the premium-denim craze has cooled considerably. A newer craze is the passion for heritage and Americana, workwear and prepdom. I think therein you’ll find the answer to your queries “why this, why now”?

  11. preppyerik | July 30, 2010 at 10:22 am |

    Christian,
    I can appreciate your point about Americana and workwear. But, i would point out that American companies such as Woolrich, L.L. Bean, Redwing, etc.–who have recently rebooted their images with the help of hot younger designers–began as workwear. I was merrily attempting to point out the “fox-in-the-henhouse” quality of the Brooks-Levi collaboration. I believe, despite all evidence to the contrary on the streets of the LES and Williamsburg, that true ivy or preppy style cannot be wore ironically. And, i can’t see a longtime Brooks patron wearing jeans without a strange sense of the comic and/or ironic. I guess I’m not a big fan of anything this postmodern.

  12. All right everyone, further devil’s advocate playing:

    I just checked Brooks’s site, and guess what? regular Brooks jeans are $148, the same as the new Levi’s collaboration:

    http://www.brooksbrothers.com/IWCatSectionView.process?IWAction=Load&Merchant_Id=1&Section_Id=413

    So while $148 may be a high price for basic Levi’s, it’s not a high price for denim from Brooks.

    And, of course, this is not a basic Levi, but a premium one.

    Erik, Ivy or preppy style can certainly be worn ironically, just not by preppy guys, since by definition they don’t dress ironically. But maybe that’s why you put “true” in there.

    Someone should chime in with a date on when Brooks first introduced denim.

  13. preppyerik | July 30, 2010 at 10:42 am |

    According to “Brooks Brothers: Generations Of Style” pg. 124

    Brooks introduces its line of jeans in 1992 along with its casual “Friday” shirt.

  14. I just tried a pair on, so worth $148. These are not anything like Levi’s normal jean you get at Dillards.

  15. Zach, how so?

  16. Details, my friend. The stitching, the buttons, the pockets, even the hem all look much more focused on these compared to the import 501’s The biggest difference is upon touching the jeans. They just feel different. I want to say more solid; just a better material all around. Also, the fit is a bit slimmer than my normal 501’s, especially around the knee. They are the kind of jean you don’t want to wash because the color is just, well, awesome. I know you guys say the price is steep, but it’s Brooks Brothers. Get yourself a house account, earn the discounts they give you upon activation, and pay it off before you get hit with any interest charges. To sum it up in Ivy terms, the quality feels like a blue Brooks Brothers oxford, just can’t be beat .

  17. Christian | July 30, 2010 at 4:05 pm |

    Now Jay, if the post had read like zach’s comment above, then it would have been a glorified advertisement.

    And zach (not to be confused with the other Zach), you say the color is awesome, but you don’t tell us which color you chose.

    In an effort to break the news in the highly competitive world of trad blogging, I posted this news item before seeing them in person. Going to have a look tomorrow.

  18. Selvedge? Shame the material itself is imported.

  19. @preppyerik — college kids were wearing jeans long before the hippies arrived on the scene. Take a look at Take Ivy.

    @ Christian — Pointer makes jeans in America (Tennessee, I believe) for $30.

  20. Glorified ad? Glad to be your scapegoat. I chose the dark indigo. And no they are not selvedge.

  21. Scapegoat? Merely trying to make the point to Jay that zach’s comment presents a favorable opinion. This post simply announced the news of the jeans, it did not attempt to tell readers what to think about them.

  22. Fair enough, Christian. I meant no hostilities. I was favorable because I really do like these jeans.

  23. Richard Meyer | August 1, 2010 at 6:16 am |

    Next: BB Crocs.

  24. Bill Smith | August 2, 2010 at 6:35 am |

    Interesting collaboration between two storied names. In the grand scheme of things in terms of premium denim, $148 is a steal. As mentioned above these are not the 501s you see at regular department stores.

    Now no one has come forward to say where the denim fabric came from North America or offshore mill. If it was woven in Japan, those buying the BB/Levis 501s will be in for a treat because Japanese denim is the way it used to be woven in the US decades ago.

    I’m reserving judgment until I see them and try a pair on.

  25. My grandfather, born at the end of the 19th century, worked–labored–in mills to save money for college, and worked his way through school. He ended his career as an executive, and retired to his outdoor pursuits, including working in his garden. He refused to wear denim, precisely because it was what laborers wore–and he was no laborer. Not really a “class” thing (that’s such a Communist way to put it) but more of a life thing. Of humble origins himself, he certainly had no airs about him, but he knew what clothes say about the man who wears them.

    Having said that, I have no problem with the Brooks price point: it’s an upscale brand that charges upscale prices. However, I do have a problem with both the fetishization of denim (which I don’t want to get into now) and the outsourcing of our labor to foreign lands. It’s not a xenophobic thing; it’s more that I am disgusted by the amoral politicians and businessmen who would rather be able to exploit foreign laborers to increase their profits than to provide a decent living for their fellow Americans while still making a decent profit. (This is not an anti-capitalist screed, either–I’m all about capitalism–but the fact is that “free” trade means, “we let Third World countries underprice our labor and destroy our manufacturing base so our economy may go down the drain.”)

    For me, denim means Levi’s; I also see jeans as a commodity. Growing up, we bought them on sale at a local chain, tossed them in the washer and dryer, and wore them until we outgrew them–I never did manage to destroy a pair (unlike some of my other clothes).

    I’d like to get some Levi’s now, for yard work, camping, and the like, but I don’t want the cheapo Mexican-made pants, and I don’t want to pay more for them than I do some of my dress pants. Fortunately, there are American manufacturers of jeans that don’t charge an arm and a leg for their goods; unfortunately, none of them are called “Levi Strauss & Co.” I wonder if any of the domestic brands have button flys?

    P.S. to Bill: That’s because the Japanese bought the old American looms that we used to weave denim with.

  26. I agree, 148 is a bit of a high price point for me to pay. I still buy jeans under fifty bucks, and I would be willing to impulse buy a pair up to a hundred.

    btw, the logo on the BB site says “made in the USA of imported fabric”

  27. About 5 or 6 years ago I had purchased several pairs of BB’s white jeans. They were a great cut and I was told the denim was from Zegna. I can’t tell you how the jeans held up; as with any white pant, they are a magnet for stains, red wine, etc. and get tossed in July. I may have one last pair in storage.

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