How that logo on your favourite pair of jeans came to be

There is no denying that the future of denim knows no bounds.  The evolution of the humble workwear garment has skyrocketed beyond indigo thread into a new technical and sustainable era.  As the advancement of jeans blazes on, the rich history and heritage of denim are still essential ingredients when researching and designing the branding of a pair of jeans.  Many designers will look to the past when drawing up a list of elements that they want contributing to the final aesthetic of their branding.

Over the decades, denim branding has become so generic that a lot of jeans wear brands have created elements in their branding that they think are fundamental to the overall structure of a jean when in actual fact they were original design features created by a certain brand.

Most jeans will carry a leather patch, back pocket stitching, woven tab and of course rivets and buttons.  Here, we look at how traditional branding has influenced contemporary brands and how some contemporary brands have paid homage to these traditions.

The Double Ring Button

Doris and Don opened the first Gap store in 1969.  The Gap and Levi’s had a very strong tie from the start as the Gap’s first inventory were Levi’s jeans and LP records.  So when the Gap started to make and brand its own denim, part of their branding design and style weighed heavily on the Levi’s classic button.  One cannot help but notice the Gap’s nod to the Levi’s button with its filled out donut centre, font style, dot textured background and double rings and stars (a reference to the stars and stripes on the U.S. flag).  Over the years, many other brands have paid homage to this classic design.


Levi’s / Gap

This double ring design has become a classic of jeans wear with numerous examples


(Clockwise ffrom top left) UES  / Studio-DArtisan /  SUGAR CANE  / MOMOTARO

The Pocket Tab

The Red Tab which was added to the back pocket of every pair of Levi’s from 1936 to better help differentiate it from competitor’s jeans has become one of the most recognisable and iconic pieces of jeans wear branding.  Many denim brands over the years have created their own Tab device.


(Clockwise from top left) UES   /  SUGAR CANE / Studio-DArtisan /  Léon Denim

Levi’s have initiated lawsuits over the years against some competitors whose tabs have been too close in shape, size and placement to their original.  However, there are some companies that wish to pay homage to the Levi’s brand whilst staying within the copyright boundaries.  Tellason jeans, for example, have a red tab sewn inside the back pocket rendering it invisible until such time when the denim is worn down to reveal the ghostly imprint of the hidden tab.  In addition, the tab is branded with the word ‘LeGAL’ all in uppercase as on the Levi’s tab with the exception of the ‘e’ being in lowercase.



‘Tug-of-War’ Logo 

Levi’s ‘Two Horse’ logo of a pair of jeans being pulled apart by two horses was originally designed to illustrate the strength of their hardwearing pants, this analogy has been imitated in many forms.

The examples below show the following interpretations – Pigs (Studio Dartisan & SA), armoured tanks (Real McCoy & Co.), elephants (The Boss) and Warehouse and Co., flipping it’s take on the logo to show a horse being pulled apart by two jeans.


( clockwise from top left ) Studio-DArtisan  / REAL McCOY  /  WARE HOUSE / BOSS

Many companies may have taken inspiration from the Levi’s ‘Two Horse’ logo but there are in actual fact examples of this tradition of a ‘jeans tug-of-war’ depicted by the workwear company, Sweet-Orr, that predate the Levi’s logo by 6 years.  In 1880, Sweet-Orr created their famous tug-of-war logo.  There are a couple of accounts relating to the origin for the inspiration of the logo.  The first being of a Philadelphia worker who had fallen from a roof and was fortuitously saved when his overalls got caught by a spike.  This logo depicts him suspended by his overalls as he waits to be rescued.  The second, is that Sweet-Orr actually had real-life tug o’war contests where they replaced rope with a pair of Sweet-Orr pants.



Painted Arcuate

When Hidehiko Yamane founded EVISU in 1991 as part of the Osaka Five, he looked back to the classic Levi’s arcuate for his back pocket branding inspiration.  His original jean mimicked the 1944 ‘501XX’ with its painted arcuate (a result of wartime regulations) and thus, the Seagull logo was born.  Each jean was hand painted with this iconic design.


EVISU / 1944 501 LEVI’S

The Levi’s arcuate design is believed to go as far back as 1873 but it is not known if this idea was exclusive to the brand.  The original purpose was probably to do with pocket reinforcement.  For over 100 years many jeans brands have featured similar or exact copies of their design but in 1943, Levi’s registered it as their own trademark leaving competitor brands to create their own versions of this style of branding.


( clockwise from top left ) FULLCOUNT /  SAMURAI  / EDWIN / ONE JEANS 

It is awe inspiring to see the advancement and future of jeans wear but it is fascinating to see how historical designs still clearly influence denim branding of today.

Enjoyed this guest blog? You can follow Nick on Instagram at 4thavenuegraphics and visit the websitewww.4th-avenue.com for a glimpse of his extensive denim knowledge and his knowledge of apparel branding.

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