The story of Levi’s is the quintessential American Dream: a German immigrant starts a dry goods store during the Gold Rush, then makes a killing selling jeans with rivet-reinforced pockets to miners. Levi Strauss patented blue jeans on May 20, 1873 – and 145 years later, they’re still an integral part of American culture.

From cowboys and prospectors to Hollywood stars, the jeans have stayed relevant. But how? The brand has stayed in tune to the culture, and adapted accordingly.

Levi’s advertising through the decades

As The Drum puts it,

“The brand has dangled itself over the cutting edge of society for most of its existence. Levi’s has taken the lead from youth culture since 1960, when it realized teenagers had stopped calling its denim trousers ‘overalls’ and started calling them ‘jeans’. It promptly printed the term on all of its advertising.”

During the 60s, the brand incorporated psychedelic flower-power imagery into their print ads, while having an equally psychedelic band, Jefferson Airplane, record a series of radio ads.

The 80s were an especially monumental decade for Levi’s. Realizing that sexy sells, the company released the ad “Laundrette,” which featured an attractive guy stripping down to his boxer shorts, taking off, of course, a pair of Levi’s. The spot increased their notoriety, with sales taking off in not just the U.S., but across Europe.

However, in the 90s, the brand began to struggle. Chief Marketing Officer, Jennifer Sey, explains:

We definitely started to experience some real challenges. The category changed. The mode of selling through wholesale really started to change and we saw verticals popping up everywhere. We didn’t respond quickly enough, and we experienced a real period of decline and a loss of relevance.

Their advertising during that period was a significant departure from the hot guys and trendy music that characterized Levi’s ads of the last decade. Featuring a strange yellow puppet, the ads are sort of a visual representation of the brand’s crisis at the time.

Levi’s today

Thankfully, the crisis was short-lived. Levi’s bounced back – and now they are producing exciting ads again, like “Circles,” which was one of the most-watched ads on YouTube in 2017. It projects a sexy vibe, but is also more sensitive to today’s “Me Too” culture, which might find a spot like ”Laundrette” disconcerting.

The brand’s coolness can also be seen in the Kardashians’ 2017 Christmas card, where all members of the family are wearing Levi’s. How much did the brand pay them, you ask? Sey responds:

That was them. We didn’t dress them. With authentic connections, we don’t need mercenaries.

 There’s no doubt that Levi’s is making authentic connections and demonstrating that their brand is for everyone– from Snoop Dogg and the Kardashians to you and me.