Everybody wears Jeans

Jeans represent democracy in fashion. Giorgio Armani

Archive for The Big Three

Wrangler Jeans

Wrangler is a manufacturer of jeans. The brand is owned by the VF Corporation, who also own Lee, Jan Sport and The North Face, among others. Its headquarters are located in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina, with production plants in a variety of locations throughout the world. Wrangler International is now chaired by Dieter Jacobfeuerborn.

Wrangler Jeans were first made by Blue Bell, who acquired the brand when they took over Casey Jones in the mid-1940s. Blue Bell employed Bernard Lichtenstein (‘Rodeo Ben’), a Polish tailor from Łódź who worked closely with cowboys, to help design jeans suitable for rodeo use. This was the origin of Wrangler Jeans. The 13MWZ style, introduced in 1947, is still available worldwide. In addition to this, Wrangler has since introduced several other lines that are more designated towards a specific group or demographic. Some examples of this are 20X, Riggs and Aura.

Wrangler also has a series of football commercials with Brett Favre playing a game of touch football in the mud.

History of the company

1897
20 year old C.C. Hudson leaves Spring Hill Farm in Williamson County, Tennessee, and makes his way to North Carolina, seeking his fortune in the emerging textile industry. He finds work in a factory making overalls, where he earns 25 cents a day sewing on buttons.

1904
Hudson’s workplace closes. He and a few others buy several of the sewing machines, lease space above a downtown grocery store and incorporate as the Hudson Overall Company.

1919
The business builds its first factory on the corner of South Elm Street and changes its name to Blue Bell Overall Company. Legend has it that a group of railroad workers who bought overalls at the Hudson store gave C.C. Hudson a bell, and after spending time in the factory, the bell — like everything else — became covered in blue denim dust, hence “Blue Bell”.

1936
Blue Bell launches Super Big Ben Overalls made out of 100% Sanforized Fabric that reduces shrinkage after washing to less than 1%. This sets a new standard for the industry.

1943
Blue Bell acquires the Casey Jones Work-Clothes Company and the rights to a rarely used Casey Jones brand name: Wrangler.

1946
Blue Bell starts to develop a jeans line for cowboys, hiring famous tailor Rodeo Ben. Blue Bell workers take part in a contest to give the jeans a brand name. The winning name is Wrangler, synonymous with the name for a working cowboy.

1947
After designing and testing 13 pairs of prototype jeans, Blue Bell introduces the Wrangler 13MWZ to American consumers. A promo campaign is launched featuring 13MWZ test riders and rodeo legends Freckles Brown, Bill Linderman and Jim Shoulders.

1962
Blue Bell opens a factory in Belgium and the Wrangler brand name enjoys a successful launch in Europe.

1974
The Pro Cowboys Association of American (PRCA) officially endorses Wrangler Jeans.

1986
Blue Bell merges with the VF Corporation of Pennsylvania, preparing the ground for the global success of the Wrangler brand.

1996
1 in every 5 pairs of jeans sold in America is a Wrangler.

1997
50th anniversary of the 13MWZ. A Special Collectors Edition of the 13MWZ is created to celebrate this event.

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Lee Jeans

Lee is a brand of denim jeans, first produced in 1889 in Salina, Kansas. The company is owned by VF Corporation, the largest apparel company in the world. Its headquarters are currently in Merriam, Kansas, just outside of Kansas City, Missouri. The company states that they are an international retailer and manufacturer of casual wear and work wear and that they have more than 400 employees in the United States.

History

The company was formed in 1889 by Henry David Lee as the Lee Mercantile Company at Salina, Kansas producing dungarees and jackets. The growth of Lee was prompted by the introduction of the Union-All work jumpsuit in 1913 and their first overall in 1920. Later in the 1920s Lee introduced a zipper fly and continued to expand. Around this time, the first children’s overall line was sold.

In 1928 H.D. Lee, founder and president of The H.D. Lee Mercantile Company, died of complications following a heart attack. During the 1930s and 1940s the company became the leading manufacturer of work clothes in the US.

In 1944, the Lazy “S” became the official Lee back pocket. A flood wiped out Lee’s Kansas City distribution center. It ruined the entire stock of merchandise, except the Buddy Lee dolls, which floated. In 1954, Lee expanded into casual wear.

During the 1960s the company expanded to 81 countries and in 1969 was acquired by VF Corporation, becoming a brand. Denim made the crossover into the fashion market and bell bottoms are welcomed with open arms by Vietnam protesters. Lee aired its first television advertisement, which promoted Lee western wear.

In the 1970s Lee shifted its focus from the work wear business and began catering to fashion cycles. Lee created an all-new fit for women under the Ms. Lee label. A youth wear line for boys and girls was introduced.

In 1996 started Lee National Denim Day as part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Working with the Entertainment Industry Foundation, Lee National Denim Day has raised over $75 million to help fund breast cancer research programs.

Manufacturing

In 1981, 240 factory workers in Greenock, Scotland, staged a sit in protest against plans to move the factory to Northern Ireland. What was planned as a one night protest continued for 7 months. As of 2005, Lee Jeans have been manufactured by Arvind Mills in a number of small factories in Chamarajanagar, India. 60,000 workers produce 5,000 pairs of jeans a day.

Levi Strauss & Co.

Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&CO) is a privately held clothing company known worldwide for its Levi’s brand of denim jeans. It was founded in 1853 when Levi Strauss came from Buttenheim, (Kingdom of Bavaria) to San Francisco, California to open a west coast branch of his brothers’ New York dry goods business. Although the company began producing denim overalls in the 1870s, modern jeans were not produced until the 1920s. The company briefly experimented (in the 1970s) with employee ownership and a public stock listing, but remains owned and controlled by descendants and relatives of Levi Strauss’ four nephews.

Organization

Levi Strauss & Co. is a worldwide corporation organized into three geographic divisions: Levi Strauss Americas (LSA), based in the San Francisco headquarters; Levi Strauss Europe, Middle East and Africa (LSEMA), based inBrussels; and Asia Pacific Division (APD), based in Singapore. The company employs a staff of approximately 10,500 people worldwide, and owns and develops a few brands. Levi’s, the main brand, was founded in 1873 in San Francisco, specializing in riveted denim jeans and different lines of casual and street fashion.

From the early 1960s through the mid 1970s, Levi Strauss experienced explosive growth in its business as the more casual look of the 1960s and 1970s ushered in the “blue jeans craze” and served as a catalyst for the brand. Levi’s, under the leadership of Jay Walter Haas Sr., Peter Haas Sr., Paul Glasco and George P. Simpkins Sr., expanded the firm’s clothing line by adding new fashions and models, including stoned washed jeans through the acquisition of Great Western Garment Co.(GWG), a Canadian clothing manufacturer, acquired by Levi’s. GWG was responsible for the introduction of the modern “stone washing” technique, still in use by Levi Strauss.

Mr. Simpkins is credited with the company’s record paced expansion of its manufacturing capacity Perhaps most impressive, however, was Levi’s expansion under Simpkins was accomplished without a single unionized employee as a result of Levi’s’ and the Hass families’ strong stance on human rights and Simpkins’ use of “pay for performance” manufacturing at the sewing machine operator level up. As a result, Levi’s’ plants were perhaps the highest performing, best organized and cleanest textile facilities of their time. Levi’s even piped in massive amounts of air conditioning for the comfort of Levi’s workers into its press plants, which were known in the industry to be notoriously hot.

2004 saw a sharp decline of GWG in the face of global outsourcing, so the company was closed and the Edmonton manufacturing plant shut down. The Dockers brand, launched in 1986which is sold largely through department store chains, helped the company grow through the mid-1990s, as denim sales began to fade. Levi Strauss attempted to sell the Dockers division in 2004 to relieve part of the company’s $2 billion outstanding debt.

Launched in 2003, Levi Strauss Signature features jeans wear and casual wear.

History

Jacob Davis was a tailor who frequently purchased bolts of cloth made from hemp from Levi Strauss & Co.’s wholesale house. After one of Davis’ customers kept purchasing cloth to reinforce torn pants, he had an idea to use copper rivets to reinforce the points of strain, such as on the pocket corners and at the base of the button fly. Davis did not have the required money to purchase a patent, so he wrote to Strauss suggesting that they go into business together. After Levi accepted Jacob’s offer, on May 20, 1873, the two men received U.S: Patent 139,121 from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The patented rivet was later incorporated into the company’s jean design and advertisements. Contrary to an advertising campaign suggesting that Levi Strauss sold his first jeans to gold miners during the California Gold Rush (which peaked in 1849), the manufacturing of denim overalls only began in the 1870s.

Levi Strauss started the business at the 90 Sacramento Street address in San Francisco. He next moved the location to 62 Sacramento Street then 63 & 65 Sacramento Street. By changing the location of the store the company began to become more successful.

Modern jeans began to appear in the 1920s, but sales were largely confined to the working people of the western United States, such as cowboys, lumberjacks, and railroad workers. Levi’s jeans apparently were first introduced to the East during the dude ranch craze of the 1930s, when vacationing Easterners returned home with tales (and usually examples) of the hard-wearing pants with rivets.

Another boost came in World War II, when blue jeans were declared an essential commodity and were sold only to people engaged in defense work. From a company with fifteen salespeople, two plants, and almost no business east of the Mississippi in 1946, the organization grew in thirty years to include a sales force of more than 22,000, with 50 plants and offices in 35 countries.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Levi’s jeans became popular among a wide range of youth subcultures, includinggreasers, mods, rockers, hippies and skinheads. Levi’s popular shrink-to-fit 501s were sold in a unique sizing arrangement; the indicated size was related to the size of the jeans prior to shrinking, and the shrinkage was substantial. The company still produces these unshrunk, uniquely sized jeans, and they are still Levi’s number one selling product. Although popular lore (abetted by company marketing) holds that the original design remains unaltered, this is not the case: the company’s president got too close to a campfire, and the rivet at the bottom of the crotch conducted the fire’s heat too well; the offending rivet, which is depicted in old advertisements, was removed.

1990s and later

By the 1990s, the brand was facing competition from other brands and cheaper products from overseas, and began accelerating the pace of its US factory closures and its use of offshore subcontracting agreements. Today, Levis jeans are made overseas.

The firm is today owned almost entirely by indirect descendants and relatives of Levi Strauss, whose four nephews inherited the San Francisco dry goods firm after their uncle’s death in 1902. The corporation’s bonds are traded publicly, as are shares of the company’s Japanese affiliate, Levi Strauss Japan K.K.
According to the New York Times, Levi Strauss leads the apparel industry in trademark infringement cases, filing nearly 100 lawsuits against competitors since 2001.

By 2007, Levi Strauss was again said to be profitable after declining sales in nine of the previous ten years. After more than two decades of family ownership, rumors of a possible public stock offering were floated in the media in July 2007.