Levi’s Jeans have been the rage for close to two centuries now. So, it honestly shouldn’t come up as a surprise when one finds an old pair of discarded jeans. Nevertheless, the situation does change when we realize that the garments from the 19th century. Recently, one such pair of jeans was sold in a small-town auction in New Mexico.
The pair, approximately from the 1880s was sold for a whopping price of $87,000. The jeans were discovered by a denim archaeologist in an abandoned mine. Later, they were bought by Zip Stevenson and Kyle Hautner. In the following interview with CNN, Stevenson mentioned, “We didn’t have any plans to buy the jeans together until the auction started, which is kind of insane looking back on it.”
Stevenson, a collector of vintage denim, has been in the business for close to 30 years- but has never seen such a pair of Levi’s Jeans before. The owner of a denim repair shop also mentioned, “These jeans are extremely rare- especially in this fantastic worn condition and size”. The owner had heard of the jeans “about five years ago when they were first discovered” in the Wild Wild West by noted denim archaeologist Michael Harris. Harris “has looked in at least 50 abandoned mines for five years and has not found a pair of equal quality.” The other pairs that have been found by digging are usually kept in museums and are not in any position to be worn again.
Stevenson believes that this pair of Levi’s Jeans, “are surprisingly durable, so they definitely can be worn.” Speaking to CNN, the owner also commented, “There’s a couple of soft sports on the jeans that could use a bit of reinforcement but otherwise they’re super-duper solid jeans. I could easily imagine Johnny Depp or Jason Momoa wearing them.”
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Levi’s Jeans From The 1880s Sold For $87,000
Kyle Hautner who paid 90% of the price for the Levi’s Jeans also went on record to state, “I’m still kind of bewildered, just surprised in myself for even purchasing them.” It is quite an oddity for a pair of jeans from this company of this age to come up at the auction. This particular pair is, in fact, in a wearable condition, which features a bunch of wax splatters. The other details that feature in this cloth include a cloth patch that runs along the entirety of the beltline, suspender buttons, a buckle back adjuster, and just a single pocket at the back.
What makes this single pair of Levi’s Jeans so iconic is the label that is present inside the pair. The label reads, “The only kind made by white labor.” Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, the company mentioned that this slogan was introduced in the workforce after the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in 1882. This Act barred any and all Chinese workers from entering the country. The rampant discrimination was also quite common. Books like the East of Eden by John Steinbeck and HBO shows like the Warrior show them quite clearly. Haupert adds, “It’s wild to see that. That’s how old these jeans are.”
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The policy, as well as the slogan, did see an end to it in the 1890s. The Levi’s spokesperson at the auction stated that the brand “is wholly committed to using our platform and our voice to advocate for real equality and to fight against racism in all its forms.” The Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed later in 1943 and found condemnation in 2011 when Congress spoke up against its horrors of it. Nevertheless, the Levi’s Jeans at the Durango Vintage Festivus were definitely the showstopper. And despite all the hullabaloo surrounding the pair of jeans and its ancestry- no one would be batting an eye at the high price.
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- “19th-century Levi’s jeans found in mine shaft sell for more than $87,000.” CNN. Christian Edwards. October 13, 2022.
- “A 140-Year-Old Pair of Levi’s Was Found in a Mine Shaft. They Just Sold for Over $87,000..” Robb Report. Rachel Cormack. October 13, 2022.