505s: Levi’s Most Rebellious Jeans Make a Comeback to Dress the New Revolutionaries

Levi's is bringing back the 505s, its most rebellious jeans beloved by The Rolling Stones and The Ramones, to dress the new revolutionaries.

All images via Levi's

If the Levi's 501 jean is a symbol of hard work and integrity, then the iconic 505 jean is its rebellious younger sibling that looks just as good but got mixed up with the wrong people. It got caught up with the protesting, anti-war and anti-government hippies and biker gangs of the 1960s and 1970s and spent too much time with punk rockers at New York City's CBGB. Now, Levi's is bringing back the 505 under a slightly different name, the 505C, but the company hopes the iconic jean will retain all the punkish attitude of the original.

"[The 505] was really the modern jeans for Levi's and the period that it came from—the '60s—reflects that," Levi's head of global design Jonathan Cheung told Complex. "It's the period where Levi's transitions from being a blue collar, pure workwear brand to something for lifestyle, and Levi's gets embraced by counter-culture, from biker gangs to youth. In fact, during that time, there's such an explosion that schools are discouraging their students from them. I'm not sure they actually banned them, but [they] certainly discouraged them and I think that was probably the biggest favor they ever did for Levi's popularity." 

The history of the 505 is almost as illustrious as its more famous and well-mannered brother. Throughout the '70s, the original 505 jean appeared on album covers with rock 'n' roll bands like The Rolling Stones for their 1971 album Sticky Fingers and The Ramones for their self-titled 1976 album. "The 505 is the iconic fit that a lot of people will be familiar with, but they just might not know the number," Cheung said. And while the 505's heyday was over three decades ago, it's coming back rejuvenated. If 72-year-old Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger can have an eighth child in 2016, Levi's can certainly keep the rock 'n' roll magic coursing through its veins, too. 

Cheung knew it was time to bring the style back after he noticed the popularity of vintage 505s surging in recent years. "We started noticing a lot of girls were wearing the vintage version," he told Complex. "They were wearing men's jeans. So there's this movement where this vintage Levi's revival came on and then there's this moment where you kind of fit together all these things and where girls are wearing men's jeans and there's this big gender-neutral movement."

To meet the demand, the Levi's team has faithfully reproduced the beloved vintage 505s from the fabric—"a real true blue Levi color"—down to the zipper, which, believe it or not, was an incredibly important feature of the 505. The 505 gained notoriety among rebels and rockers because of its close ties with biker gangs, and legend has it that bikers were drawn to the style because it was the first Levi's with a zip-fly. "I heard it explained to me that bikers in the East Coast preferred a zipper fly because the wind wouldn't get in and freeze your goods like with the button-fly," Cheung said. "There may be some truth in that. It's an interesting story." 

In almost all of the stories that surround the 505s, there's a grittiness to them. How many times have you heard Levi's higher-ups talk about bikers protecting their packages? And the 505C seems to be coming back at the perfect time, when fashion has turned up the volume on metal motifs and has more of a 505 feeling than a 501 one. "The 501s roots really are in blue collar workers, miners, and farmers," Cheung said. "And then in the '60s, the 505 comes along in the context of San Francisco in the late '60s, when we have the Summer of Love in late '67. The same year the 505 gets released, you have peace marches, anti-war protests, civil rights protests, gay rights movements, and race movements, like the Black Panthers in Oakland. All these had an enormous effect on the company."

With Black Lives Matter and the Republican-filled nightmare currently taking place in Cleveland on the top of everyone's mind, the time couldn't be better for another revolution. Cheung said the popularity and creation of the original 505 was the result of political turmoil decades ago. "Your environment has a huge impact on you and the choices you make and how you express yourself and how you express yourself is through dressing," he said. 

The 505C jeans are available on Levi's website now.

Latest in Style