Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Indiana Jones of Denim

Pia Sarkar at the San Francisco Chronicle has penned an interesting article about Lynn Downey, official Levi's historian and archivist. Having held the post for 17 years Downey's knowledge of all things Levi's, not to mention denim, is awe inspiring. Her adventures include hunting down the oldest and most valuable pair of jeans: an 1879 Levi's "XX."

I wish Sarkar would have shed more light on Levi's archives, which is the denim world's equivalent of the Vatican secret archives. It is "open to company employees only, [and] are lined with large filing cabinets containing old retail catalogs and company newsletters, as well the rare signature of [Levi] Strauss himself, countersigned on the back of a check." There is also the massive collection of jeans that Downey tracked down and documented. The storage rooms are cooled to 65 degrees Fahrenheit and garments are handled carefully with gloves. All this to protect the priceless fabric of course.

This article is required reading for vintage denim devotees.

San Francisco Chronicle SFGate Article