You may or may not have heard… but we’ve made some jeans with Levi’s.
Taking influence from two seemingly-disparate sub-cultures, we’ve hoiked the super-sharp jeans from the early days of Northern Soul, and fused them with the laid-back, washed-out denim favoured by San Francisco hippy drop-outs.
They’re cunningly called the Levi’s Oi Polloi 511 jeans, and they go on sale at 10:00am on Thursday the 3rd of November.
Until then, here’s what Oi Polloi main-men Steve and Nigel have to say about them, along with some photos of their trip to see them being made in San Francisco...
I got my first pair of Levi’s from a guy called Zip Code in Affleck’s Palace. They were second hand from the States. Back then, the second hand ones were more sought after then the new ones because they were seen as ‘vintage’. In and around 1983 and ’84 people stopped wanting to wear trainers and tracksuits, and started wearing second hand clothes.
The Smiths had a hell of a lot to do with that. Supposedly the big turn-up that Japanese people had on their jeans in the 90s came from Morrissey. He was really into the 50s and was obsessed with these bleak Northern heroes.
Affleck’s Palace was the place where people would go and look for MA-1 jackets, Dr Martens and denim shirts, and Zip Code was one of the guys in Manchester who started going to the States. He’d get flight jackets, Levi’s jeans, Converse and painted kipper ties. Maybe a bit of Brooks Brothers stuff and Burberry too. It was this retrospective thing. Some of it was workwear, but it was a casual thing. We weren’t going to work in Levi’s. It’s like Converse All Stars, they’re basketball shoes, but we weren’t wearing them for basketball.
You couldn’t really get Levi’s in England until the late 70s. Before then, you had to be really in the know to get them. Maybe you’d been over to America or something. A normal pair of jeans in the 60s was about a quid, but Levi’s were like ten quid, so they were sought after by mods.
With Warrington having the airbase and stuff like that, there must have been bits of Levi’s stuff knocking about in the North West, but to get them they were really, really expensive. Back then, it was a showing off thing, because they were expensive.
There’s an abundance of black clothes that I see people wearing. Everyone wore black stuff in the 80s — it’s never gone away — but I don’t. I don’t want to fit in with that. To me, clothes should be softer on the eye — less strict. White Levi’s were such a Hacienda thing. I’d wear them with a long sleeved patterned t-shirt like Sonny Bono. It was that beatnik look. There was this other old advert where there was this girl on a scooter with white Levi’s on, which goes back to the mod thing.
And then we’ve got cornflower blue and pale mint green. There was a cool picture I saw in a 1960s American GQ. This guy was sat on the floor with his legs crossed, and no shoes and socks on. He’s got a pair of pale blue STA Prest white tabs, and a pale blue, matching white tab shirt. I think it was an advert. He was something between a beatnik and a hippy.
When we went over to San Francisco, the jeans looked exactly how I’d imagined. I reckon I’ll try and get a pair of each.
In the early 80s I was wearing semi-flared needle-cord Levi’s. Before that I was into jumbo-cords that we used to take in and then split at the hem. But then we got into semi-flares so they sat right on your trainers.
I used to live in Ashton, but we used to have to go to Manchester to buy semi-flares. There were some mad jeans shops around, but no one in Ashton was wearing semi-flares, so you had to go into Manchester. When you’d come back, people would say, “What the fuck are they?”
And then we got into 501s and 518s. And then more straight leg cords. In the mid-80s there was loads of vintage stores in the centre of Manchester. There was one near where Vinyl Exchange is that sold loads of 50s Americana stuff… a lot of Levi’s and a lot of baseball jackets.
Towards the back end of the 80s, I was wearing a lot of denim. We used to buy a lot of vintage Levi’s, oversize. We were going out, and not eating much, but buying 36 waist jeans and cinching them in. Thinking back now, it was pretty mad.
The ones we’ve made are a bit of a mixture. Towards the back end of the 80s, there was a lot of coloured denim knocking about, made by people like Paul Smith and Katherine Hamnett. There’d be matching denim jackets and jeans. But our jeans are a bit of a throwback to the 60s stuff. They’ve got that slim, 60s shape, but they feel right for today. It’s not about dressing up from a certain period, that’s a bit weird.
The jeans will be available at approximately at 10:00am (GMT) on Thursday the 3rd of November. See them here.