Walmart and Levis

Some brands make me feel fascinated and furious at the same time.

Walmart is like that. One can’t help but be in awe of their logistical system; their staggering domination of fashion retail on this continent boggles the mind. This oldie but goodie that I stumbled across is a pretty compelling portrait of the behemoth.

The Levis story in the article embodies what drives me nuts about Levis – a once-great American company that has lost its authenticity. There is no reason why Levis shouldn’t still be popular – the 501 is an American classic that will never go out of style. The inheritors of the company have lost their focus – selling out to Walmart on one hand and chasing high-end collector-types on the other hand by co-opting Warhol. It seems to me that Levis core customers are neither Walmart shoppers or the ultra-fashionista – the true Levis customer craves the authenticity that Levis represented in the 1960s and 1970s. With the classic cuts are no longer available due to full-package outsourcing – Levis has lost their handle on what was once a truly great American brand. As quoted in the article – “if they stopped trying so hard to be cool, they might actually be more successful”.

I wonder what Warhol would have to say about Levis and Walmart.

He probably would have approved of his eponymous denims – Warhol could sell out with the best of them. But if Warhol was to select a image of a pair of denims for his own prints, I don’t think they would be the Warhol pair. He would have chosen the most iconic, most archetypal pair.

Levis can’t regain their icon status by printing even more iconography (Mao, dollar bills, etc.) on their jeans. The only way to do it is to recapture their authenticity – and it seems like it might be too late to do that. The reason people bought Levis was never because of the fancy marketing – and never because of the low price. It was always because Levi Strauss’ story represented the American ideal. Levis shouldn’t have to spend a cent on marketing their product – everyone already knows what it means (or what it should mean). I think that if Levis spent every marketing dollar on developing their products in North America, standardizing and perfecting the fit, and presenting the product honestly and simply without any extraneous jazz – they could stand a chance of recapturing some market attention.

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8 thoughts on “Walmart and Levis”

  1. Where I used to work there was a Levi’s outlet store, I went in there one day thinking I might give them a try after years of not buying them. The fit was horrible, the front rise in some of their jeans are way too short. I wish they would go back to making them like they used to. I was actually reading an article the other day in a magazine – Elle or Vogue – I can’t remember which one, but one of the fashion editor’s said that she drives out of the city to buy Wrangler jeans. She says that the fit is great and the price is cheap. I haven’t heard that much about Wrangler these day’s, I might have to do some research.

  2. I keep looking for the old cheapo shrink-to-fits to come back in style, like they did last time jeans skinnied up. Do they even sell those anymore?

    We shop at a place called “The General Store”, it’s just like it sounds, and buy my husband Wranglers. They fit, they’re cheap, and they carry 36″ inseam, which doesn’t seem like it should be hard to find but it is.

    I, on the other hand, wear a common size, easily found at the thrift store. And I find lots of worn-out Levis there, so somebody’s still buying them.

  3. I have to say Danielle, I couldn’t agree with you more. I used to be really into levis when I was younger. They should have retained their staple brand image. The simple good fitting designs. They used to be very simple, very wearable… but it’s almost as though they decided to jump on the Fashion bandwagon, and sold out big time. I think people who appreciate a good fitting jean wouldn’t mind spending the extra buck. Infact, I find it nearly impossible to find jeans that fit, having a large ass and hips and not so large waist. This made it practically impossible to find a pair of pants that fit, especially considering I HATE LOW WAISTED PANTS. It took forever but I finally found my good old Mavi’s, and I realized that spending the $100 or so on them was worth it, cause they still look the same as the day I bought them a year and a half ago, and they still fit great.

    So WAKE UP Levi’s! Can’t you see that real jean lovers just want the grand-daddy of all jeans to return to it’s roots!?!?!

  4. “I wonder what Warhol would say about Levis”? Here it is from the man himself…

    From The Philosophy of Andy Warhol by Andy Warhol:

    “I believe in bluejeans too. The ones made by Levi Strauss are the best-cut, best-looking pair of pants that have ever been designed by anybody. Nobody will ever top the original bluejeans. They can’t be bought old, they have to be bought new and they have to be worn in by the person. To get that look. And they can’t be phoney bleached or phoney anything.”
    Later- “I wish I could invent something like bluegeans. Something to be remembered for. Something mass. “I want to die with my bluejeans on,” I heard myself say”.

    SO! I think he’d prefer Levi’s stick to the authenticity they’re known for, what they’re good at, and not try to reference him in their products. The kids who ‘get’ Warhol are wearing their jeans already, and they’ll probably die with them on.

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