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Getty

10 Buttoned-Up Facts About Levi's

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Getty

Few brands have survived decades of fashion trends the way Levi Strauss has. The company received its first patent for riveted jeans on May 20, 1873, and more than 140 years later, they’re still one of the world’s most popular denim brands. Here are a few things to think about the next time you slip into your 501s.

1. THEIR FIRST JEANS WERE CALLED “XX.”

They were named after the denim they were made from. The fabric, made by Amoskeag Manufacturing Company in New Hampshire, was considered the finest denim in the U.S. In 1890, the company changed the name of their jeans to “501,” which reflected the lot number.

2. THEIR ORIGINAL HEADQUARTERS WAS DESTROYED IN THE SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKE.

The earthquake also destroyed two factories, and some important history—a vast majority of early company records were completely lost in the 1906 quake and the fire it caused.

3. BING CROSBY HAD A TUX MADE ENTIRELY FROM LEVI'S.

In 1951, Bing Crosby made the egregious error of trying to don denim in a swanky Vancouver hotel. Unimpressed with his casual dress, the hotel almost denied him entry—until someone realized that the dude in denim was the world-famous crooner. Levi’s heard about the tale and made Crosby an entire tuxedo from his favorite fabric—501 denim. The tux even had a custom patch inside to inform all hotel managers that the suit rendered the wearer perfectly dapper and respectable enough to be admitted to any establishment. Crosby was so taken with the tux that he wore it when he did press for the film Here Comes the Groom.

4. THE BRAND HAS RECEIVED LOVE LETTERS FROM CELEBRITIES.

Bing isn't the only famous Levi's fan. Cary Grant once wrote Levi's Art Roth, who worked in the company's public relations department, to thank him for some free shirts. They were apparently a little flashy for his taste, but Grant wrote:

"My temerity is at a low ebb today, but I venture to ask that you let me know if Levi Strauss ever evolve a line of absolutely plain un-checked, un-metal-threaded, absolutely sold-colored shirts....no matter what the colors: I will rush to the nearest shop."

Mr. Roth was also on the receiving end of a letter from Clint Eastwood:

"Glad to hear you approved of the picture in Levi's Continentals. I wear them alot [sic] for casual dress, as they're one of my favorites."

5. LEVI'S HAVE HAD SUPPORTING ROLES IN MANY FILMS.

The long, long list includes: Mark Hamill in Star Wars; Marlon Brando in The Wild One; Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future; Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain; Mike Myers and Dana Carvey in Wayne's World; Peter Fonda in Easy Rider; all of the women in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

6. THEY WERE ONCE CONSIDERED REBELLIOUS.

Thanks in part to Brando’s implied endorsement, Levi’s image turned a bit bad in the 1950s. Trying to keep their image wholesome, the company took out newspaper ads that depicted a clean-cut kid wearing their jeans, along with the phrase, “Right for School.” Mothers weren’t swayed. “This may be ‘right for school’ in San Francisco, in the West or in some rural areas, [but] I can assure you that it is in bad taste and not right for school in the East and particularly New York,” one New Jersey mother wrote.

7. LEVI'S MADE A "201" JEAN.

The 201 jeans were made in the late 1800s. The “2” indicated that they were less expensive (and probably not as durable) [PDF].

8. THE JEANS ONCE HAD A CROTCH RIVET.

It was, Popular Mechanics reported in 1999, "a source of numerous complaints from folks crouching in front of campfires. The rivet would heat up and you can imagine the results. Even one of LS&CO.'s presidents was treated to a firsthand taste of the toasty treatment." The rivet was eventually removed during World War II, when all manufacturers were required to get rid of some metal from their products for the war effort.

9. THE COMPANY OWNS AN 1879 PAIR OF LEVI'S.

They’re kept in a fire-proof safe, and only two people in the company have the combination to it.

10. THEY CREATED A "FIELD OF JEANS" IN 2014.

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The company collected 18,850 donated pairs of Levis to create a message about recycling on the San Francisco 49ers football field. Afterward, the jeans were donated to Goodwill where their sales benefited their job training programs.

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Why Do Wimbledon Players Wear All White?
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Matthew Stockman, Getty Images

by James Hunt

Wimbledon's dress code is one of the most famous in sports. The rules, which specify that players must dress "almost entirely in white," are so strict that the referee can force players to change under threat of disqualification. In the past, many of the sport's top players have found themselves on the wrong end of this rule—but where did it come from?

It's believed that the rule stems from the 1800s, when tennis was a genteel sport played primarily at social gatherings, particularly by women. The sight of sweaty patches on colored clothing was considered to be inappropriate, so the practice of wearing predominantly white clothing—a.k.a. tennis whites—was adopted to avoid embarrassment. The All England Club, which hosts Wimbledon, was founded in 1868 (initially as the All England Croquet Club) and introduced Lawn Tennis in 1875.

Quite simply, the club is just a stickler for tradition. Recently issued guidelines for clothing include statements such as "White does not include off-white or cream," that colored trim can be "no wider than one centimeter," and that "undergarments that either are or can be visible during play (including due to perspiration)" are not allowed. That's right: even players' underwear has to be white.

The rules have rubbed many famous tennis players the wrong way. In 2013, former Wimbledon champion Roger Federer was told not to wear his orange-soled trainers after they were judged to have broken The All England Club's dress code. In 2002, Anna Kournikova was forced to replace her black shorts with a pair of white ones borrowed from her coach. And Andre Agassi refused to play at Wimbledon in the earlier years of his career because his signature denim shorts and garish tops were banned.

The all-white clothing rule isn't the only piece of baggage that accompanies Wimbledon's long history. It's the only Grand Slam tournament that's still played on a grass court, and the only one that schedules a day off on the middle Sunday of the tournament.

However, the club is not immune to change. In 2003 a long-standing tradition of requiring players to bow or curtsey to the Royal Box on the Centre Court was discontinued by the Duke of Kent (who also happens to be The All England Club's president) who deemed it anachronistic—though the requirement does stand if the Queen or Prince of Wales is in attendance—and in 2007 the prizes for the men's and women's tournaments were made equal. The all-white clothing rule may be annoying for players, but at least the club has shown it can change with the times in the areas where it really matters.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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iStock
An Eco-Friendly Startup Is Converting Banana Peels Into Fabric for Clothes
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iStock

A new startup has found a unique way to tackle pollution while simultaneously supporting sustainable fashion. Circular Systems, a “clean-tech new materials company,” is transforming banana byproducts, pineapple leaves, sugarcane bark, and flax and hemp stalk into natural fabrics, according to Fast Company.

These five crops alone meet more than twice the global demand for fibers, and the conversion process provides farmers with an additional revenue stream, according to the company’s website. Fashion brands like H&M and Levi’s are already in talks with Circular Systems to incorporate some of these sustainable fibers into their clothes.

Additionally, Circular Systems recycles used clothing to make new fibers, and another technology called Orbital spins those textile scraps and crop byproducts together to create a durable type of yarn.

People eat about 100 billion bananas per year globally, resulting in 270 million tons of discarded peels. (Americans alone consume 3.2 billion pounds of bananas annually.) Although peels are biodegradable, they emit methane—a greenhouse gas—during decomposition. Crop burning, on the other hand, is even worse because it causes significant air pollution.

As Fast Company points out, using leaves and bark to create clothing may seem pretty groundbreaking, but 97 percent of the fibers used in clothes in 1960 were natural. Today, that figure is only 35 percent.

However, Circular Systems has joined a growing number of fashion brands and textile companies that are seeking out sustainable alternatives. Gucci has started incorporating a biodegradable material into some of its sunglasses, Bolt Threads invented a material made from mushroom filaments, and pineapple “leather” has been around for a couple of years now.

[h/t Fast Company]

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