At the end of the 90s, "Levi Strauss & Co.", the most famous jeans company in the world, had seen its turnover reach numbers never seen before then, almost suddenly, the spell was broken and for about 14 years, a very long period even for a brand born in 1853, has traveled a downhill road that to the most careful analysts seemed to be a free fall.
The arrival in 2011 of the new CEO brought a rediscovered reminder to the world that “you wear other jeans, but you live in Levi’s”.
How did a pair of trousers, the 501 model, created for the California miners for the 1800’s gold rush, become the sexiest, most requested garment in the world?
Let’s start at the road which diagonally cuts New York’s Greenwich Village: Christopher Street, the heart of homosexual culture and stage of the first gay Pride in 1970.
This is where the restyling and coding of the new gay-machi look began. A big part of it was adopted, without any knowledge, by many teenagers in the ‘80s. In Italy, they are known as "Paninari" ("sandwich eaters"): lumberjack's checkered shirts, showy leather accessories (belts and gloves), carpenter's boots, denim jackets, padded or not (obviously Levi's) and jeans, strictly the Levi's 501, which with the flap constructed from thick copper buttons and a particular cut of the seam on the lower back highlighted the male "shapes".
Everybody knows that "sexy" helps to sell, especially the board of Levi Strauss & Co. They don’t think twice and rely on an English agency, the BBH (Bartle Bogle Hegarty) to spread the message. The new agency is headed by the young creative legend John Hegarty. Under his leadership, BBH creates a series of sensational commercials that inflame hormones of adolescents and adults around the world.
Little masterpieces of creativity, with music and atmospheres that often wink at the 50s and 60s, are broadcast repeatedly. Levi's, almost always the 501s, are the disruptive element worn by beautiful and sexy young guys who break the rules. Levi's goes further and girls too wear the same jeans and become just as sexy.
Aside from a young Brad Pitt, just before Thelma and Louise fame, almost all the models remain anonymous, except for one British male model, who broke the heart of any teenager in the world, regardless of sex and nationality.
In the commercial, Ivor Neville Kamen, for everyone simply Nick Kamen, is the guy who enters a laundromat (here too the atmosphere is quite retro), he strips of his clothes (obviously he wears a pair of Levi's 501) puts them on in the washing machine with some stones and sits quietly to wait for the wash to finish.
At the time Kamen was 23, with a tuft of black Elvis hair, full lips, brown skin and a pair of green / blue eyes that will make even a young and emerging Madonna lose her head. Nick Kamen is so handsome that the record industry wants him, a couple of singles come out soon (again in collaboration with Madonna). But he is a will-o'-the-wisp, in a few years he disappears from the limelight, also staying out of all the various revivals of the 80s that have raged in recent decades.
The very rare photographs that are around show him thin and gray, the eyes are always the same, but the time has not been kind to him, to tell the truth, time is never kind to anyone, unless you are a pair of Levi's, even better if a 501. After more than a century they still remain one of the coolest clothing items to wear, no matter age or gender.