Levi's jeans from 1800s with original racist slogan sold for £67,500
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A pair of Levi’s jeans with the brand’s original, racist slogan on the back have been bought for more than £67,500 and are thought to be one of the oldest known pairs.
Although well-worn, the trousers from the 1880s, were described as in good/wearable condition in the listing and are still “good enough to wear to a Starbucks”.
It was 23-year-old Kyle Haupert who won the bid during the Durango Vintage Festivus auction in New Mexico, in the US, on October 1.
The item has been hailed as “the holy grail of vintage denim collecting” and Kyle, who collected vintage clothing, purchased them as an investment piece.
The listing for the antique jeans said that they are “one of the oldest known Levi’s jeans from the mining/Gold rush era”.
It said they are “the holy grail of vintage denim collecting” and had previously been in private collection since their discovery in an abandoned mine shaft.
This was the first time they were up for public sale and “most likely the oldest Levi’s that have ever sold at a live auction”.
While the 38-inch waist and 32-inch long jeans are marked with candle wax, thought to be from gold prospectors hunting in narrow tunnels, they still have their suspender buttons and original racist label on the back.
The label, which details the year they were made, tells of the jeans’ origin, size and place of production. However, inside it also includes the slogan “The only kind made by White Labor”.
The wording was used by the brand during a time of heightened tensions between Chinese immigrants an US citizens. It highlights the discrimination against the migrant workers.
According to the WSJ, the logo was used after the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which barred Chinese people working in the US for a decade.
A Levi’s spokesperson told the WSJ that the slogan was used to “improve sales and align with the views of consumers at the time”.
But after a decade it was dropped.
Kyle teamed up with Zip Stevenson – the owner of a vintage store in LA – to buy the jeans.
Zip helped him with the last 10 per cent of the $76,000 bid.
Kyle told the Journal: “I’m still kind of bewildered, just surprised in myself for even purchasing them.”
While Stevenson, noted their good condition saying: “You could wear them to a Starbucks.”
Kyle shared a picture of the post on his Instagram page and many couldn’t believe the price he’d paid – especially with the marks.
“Idk man price seems a little high with the stains and stuff,” commented one.
And another person raised a very good question: “I just wanna know why he took his pants off in the mine.”