A Fantastic New Documentary Tells The Full Story Of Where It All Began For The Levi’s 501

As part of the centenary celebrations marking the Golden Handshake partnership between Levi’s and Cone Mills Denim, the Levi’s brand has just released a short documentary film, The 501 Jean: Stories of an Original.

This ain’t no puff-piece or self-indulgent commercial. Rather, director and film-maker Harry Israelson cleverly weaves together archive footage and beautifully shot cameos to tell the story of the history of the Original 501 jean and how, ultimately, it came to represent the epitome of counter-culture.

Iconic and often long-forgotten movie and newsreel footage of rockers, hippies, Hell’s Angels, punks and numerous activists shows how a pair of jeans managed to strike fear and panic in to the hearts of the authorities, the cops and countless self-appointed moral guardians. Of course, it seems absurd today that a garment could actually achieve such notoriety but The 501 Jean: Stories of an Original goes the distance to chronicle the intoxicating decades from the 1950s to the 1980s when social conventions were challenged time and time again.

An American Drama In Three Acts

In three episodes – Work, Style and Rebellion – and through interviews with Henry Rollins, John Baldessari, Erin Wasson, Gary Burden, Andy Spade and many more, Israelson introduces a kaleidoscope of personal perspectives of the people who made them and the people who made them famous.

Whilst The 501 Jean: Stories of an Original is a feast for the eyes and hugely interesting and informative in its own right, perhaps one of the most inspired decisions was to have the film narrated by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. Elliott is one of folk music’s most enduring characters. A protege of Woody Guthrie in the late ’50s, Elliott is widely acknowledged for his influence on artists from Bob Dylan to Pete Seeger, and from the Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead.

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Close your eyes and it is like listening to America’s favourite grand-daddy tell about when he did in the war on safe, often authoritarian lifestyles.

All that teenage rebellion is starting to become a thing of the past. The world has moved on and we value each other on very different terms. However, consider this. Would you turn up to a job interview in your favourite Levi’s 501s? Of course you wouldn’t and that proves that there are many more years’ life in the old dog yet.

Levi’s are being cagey about the budget for The 501 Jean: Stories of an Original but these nine days of pure film craft are a priceless aid to understanding where it all began and why we are where we are today.

The 501 documentary has been screened in NYC, London, Buenos Aires and Caracas, and launches 16 March 2016 on www.levi.com. There will also be follow-up screenings around the globe.

View The Full Movie

The three episodes are now up on Youtube – Work, Style and Rebellion.

 

 

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