Repository Profile - Levi Strauss & Co.

History with Two Pairs of Pants: 501s and More at Levi Strauss & Co.

Founded:  1989

Holdings:  400 Linear feet of documents; 4,500 photos; 5,000+ garments; 750 linear feet of Marketing materials; 500 posters; 300 artifacts

Interesting Items:

  • The oldest pair of 501® jeans in the world, from c1879
  • A pair of jeans from 1938 that towed a car
  • Denim jackets redesigned or decorated by Elton John, Paloma Picasso, Yves St. Laurent, Elizabeth Taylor, Jacques Fath
  • A denim tuxedo jacket made for Bing Crosby in 1951
  • A 1949 letter from a consumer: she lost her denim jacket in the mountains of Texas, and found it one year later, still wearable


How many staff work in the Archives?

Tracey Panek is the Historian; Stacia Fink is the Archivist & Conservator. We sometimes have interns and Laura O’Hara assists us as a contract digital project manager.

Where does the Archives report within the Corporation?

We report to Corporate Communications.

Who are your main clients?

Designers from all three brands, are probably the biggest users of the Archives. They use the collections for inspiration for new products - from the design of a jean to the shape and color of buttons, labels or other elements. Designers also access the Archives to make Levi's® Vintage Clothing, a line of authentic replicas of historical garments. The company's heritage is always considered when it comes to clothing design, and the designers come to us from all global regions: North America, Europe and Asia.

The next largest groups to use the collections are the Marketing Departments from within all three brands, and this also includes the external agencies that the departments consult with, both for advertising and marketing.

Communications is the other client group which uses the Archives most often. I am the media spokesperson for company heritage, and works with specialists within the Communications division globally to educate and provide background material to journalists. Archivist Stacia Fink also fills this role as needed.

How are the collections used?

Marketing and advertising use historic images for labels, in-store advertising and visual elements for store displays. The Legal department uses the Archives to help support our trademark protection, and the Historian is periodically deposed in trademark infringement cases. We also work with Consumer Affairs to help people understand the history of the vintage garments that they own.

Do you have an inter-company web presence?

No, but the Historian writes a monthly column about history for the company intranet, called "Threads."

What does your archives do best?

We help employees, the media and business partners make connections between the company's heritage and its role as an innovator in today's marketplace. We get people excited about history!

What is your primary mission?

Besides being the repository for the company's heritage the Archives serves to reinforce the message that Levi Strauss & Co. invented the blue jean, and is a leader in product innovation and corporate citizenship. We do this every day in our work with journalists, artists, designers, filmmakers and agencies. I like to say that the company has a past, but doesn't live in the past. LS & CO.'s heritage is a starting point, a touchstone, and a vital business function.

What is your most pressing need? Or if you had one wish for your department, what would it be?

To find clothing, documents and ephemera from before 1906. We lost nearly everything in the earthquake and fire of that year - all that was saved were a few ledgers thrown into a vault by some intrepid employees before fleeing the oncoming fire. Over the last eighteen years I've been able to collect a nice amount of pre-1906 material, but I know there are more garments, advertising, trade cards and photographs out there. Of course, a cache of letters written by Levi Strauss would be nice, too (all of his personal effects were lost, as well).

What is your favorite archives-related anecdote?

Purchasing the leather Levi’s® jacket famously owned by Albert Einstein at Christie’s Auction House in London will probably rank among my most memorable career experiences. While the bidding made my heart race and frazzled my nerves, the result made it all worth it. See the full story here:



Note:  Repository Profilies are provided by the organization.  The Business Archives Section will update as notified by the organization.  Accordingly, information may not be accurate.  Individuals should contact the organization before using or citing information.

SAA Home / BAS Home / Contact the Editors