In Jamaica, the same pioneers who brought R&B and jazz to Kingston in the ‘50s and ‘60s also brought literal barrels full of American clothing, including Levi’s® denim. This ensured that the 501® was a staple of the reggae and dancehall cultures that emerged in the 1970s. Hip-hop, too, quickly embraced the iconic jean. As a new form coming up against the influence of disco, hip-hop pioneers of the ‘70s like DJ Cool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and the Rock Steady Crew found a utilitarian sense of rebellion in a well worn pair of 501®s.
As punk gave way to post punk, and then to New Wave, the DIY ethos of the late ‘70s largely disappeared, replaced by bright colors, asymmetrical cuts, and big shoulders. But the Levi’s® 501® remained a mainstay, as well as a customizable staple. Trickling down from the twin cultural towers of punk and hip-hop, the 501® crossed nearly every sub-cultural boundary. Run DMC paired them with shell toe Adidas. The Stone Roses wore 501®s in the burgeoning Manchester scene, as did another famous Manchester native, Morrissey. And time traveling suburban teenager Marty McFly wore his 501®s in exactly the same manner Beverly Hills-by-way-of-Detroit cop Axel Foley—fitted, faded, and with a classic pair of white leather sneakers.
Throughout this era, the Levi’s® 501® served as a bridge, a connecting rod that suited every style and aesthetic. No matter your age, no matter your musical taste, no matter your 9-5 , the Levi’s® 501® was a staple of every wardrobe. Whether worn low key and cool like Axel Foley, faded and classic like Bruce Springsteen, or slashed nearly into oblivion like Joey Ramone, the 501® of the ‘70s and ‘80s was truly the jean created for everyone.