And you might not even realise it
Everyone needs a denim jacket in their wardrobe. It’s as much of a staple as say, a white shirt or a little black dress. It’s the perfect companion to a Breton tee and boyfriend jeans at the weekend, adds a rebel touch to an otherwise severe suit at work, and flirts beautifully with summer frocks. But where there are plethora of brands who do the LBD well (though eternal thanks to Givenchy for putting it back on the sartorial map), there really is only one brand that reigns king when it comes to denim jackets. I’m referring to Levi’s of course.
It was first created back in 1967, and fifty years on, it’s still the only denim jacket to have. Why? We asked Levi’s Head of Design Jonathan Cheung, during the 50th celebration of the iconic piece, how it stood the test of time.
Where it all started
You may not know it, but the Levi’s Trucker jacket was first created back in the 60s, and it was an instant hit, thanks to a British musician you may or may not have heard of.
‘The Trucker really got a kickstart from its conception. In the summer of ’67, George Harrison, who was visiting his sister-in-law Patti Boyd’s sister in San Francisco, in that iconic summer of love, showed up wearing a Trucker. And from there, you see Truckers worn by mods, skinheads, metalheads, stadium rockers, indie, you know. For me, I remember growing up and seeing it on the Smiths, Johnny Marr and Morrissey and following that progression, Paul Weller and all the way to Liam Gallagher to Kanye.’
With such history, it’s quite mind-boggling to know that it actually didn’t take that long to create. ‘I was lucky enough to meet the original designer, and asked him how he created it. He just said he was asked to make a jacket to go with the 505 jeans, so he went to his desk, sat down and banged it out, it was like 15 minutes!’
Why it’s called the Trucker jacket
‘Levi’s only started calling Levi’s jeans ‘jeans’ in the ‘60s, they were just called overalls before then. The Trucker jacket was just a denim jacket before, the new name was adopted in the 90s from, re-appropriating it affectionately from what Japanese denim collectors used to call that particular type 3 jacket shape – so it’s kind of like an internal nickname that’s become more of an official thing I suppose. I guess by using the name Trucker, everybody knew it was that particular one with the V-shape panels,’ Jonathan explains.
A heavy musical history
The jacket has always been intrinsically to the music industry, but it happened by chance. A lot of popular music at the time came from the working class, which wasn’t about couture or Saville Row suits, but adolescents writing albums in their bedrooms and getting old enough to publish it, explains Jonathan. And Levi’s made it easy for fans to emulate their idols’ looks.
He says, ‘what I think makes it special is it was accessible and it had this air of rebellion already – the jean was really populated by biker gangs post-war – and most schools banned them and even until recently nightclubs did too. You could be on opposite sides of the cultural frame, fence, you could be a mod and you could be a rocker and you could still express your identity with a Trucker Jacket. You can express your subculture through the denim jacket.’
How to wear the Trucker jacket
The beauty of this iconic jacket is that anyone can wear it with anything, whether it’s a smart dress or casual checked shirt and jeans combo.
‘On men, on women, on kids, on old people, on people like working in agriculture, on roads, and then on presidents and CEOs. I think that makes it super special. So I think it’s become a piece and it’s become a layering piece as well that it makes, you might have a Céline silk and you throw on a Trucker on it and it gives it that balance and that edge,’ says Jonathan.
How do you celebrate 50 years of an icon?
By getting it re-imagined by some of the biggest names on the planet, that’s how. Levi’s collaborated with 50 influencers ranging from designers and editors to singers and actors, to created 50 limited edition pieces that show just how versatile the jacket can be.
Jonathan reveals, ‘We wanted to reflect Levi’s’s position of being connected to culture all these years, and we really wanted to connect with people that were at the centre of culture, that are moving culture and influencing culture. They come from different backgrounds, we have fashion designers, we have sportsmen, we have editors, we have bloggers and so, we just compile the list and we ask them.’
These include G-Dragon, Jim Chapman, Emmanuelle Alt, Solange, Snoop Dogg, Timberlake, and many, many more.
Who embodies the Trucker jacket?
‘To pick one person is tough. I want to say people like Steve Jobs, just because he’s amazing. We have a pair of Steve Jobs jeans and I honestly got the wobbles when we got Steve Jobs’ jeans in, because he’s so iconic and he has really pushed our culture and our species forward, so I would like it to be Steve, but you know, it’s definitely multiples,’ Jonathan explains.
That sums the jacket up perfectly. It’s not about one person, it’s about several, each one of them with their personality, which they can adapt to the jacket. And that’s why, 50 years on, it’s still the only one you need.
How long does it take to create a trucker jacket?
At the Eureka Lab (The lab, established in San Francisco in 2013, is dedicated to design, research and creative development, and creating advanced prototypes. Also to note, the timings may vary when producing a finished article, but the above gives you an indication) it takes a whole day to make a jacket, from cutting out the pattern pieces, sewing it and giving it a quick wash.
What is the process of creating it?
You need the ingredients – the fabric and the pattern. If it’s a new style or a variant of a new style then you need to take time in making and perfecting the pattern.
Next – you cut out the pattern pieces. Then you assemble them – sew them together to make the jacket. After that you wash the jacket – this can range from a simple wash (much like washing it at home) to much more complicated distressed washes. We call this process ‘finishing’. Then if there’s any embellishment – like patches, studies, embroidery – we do this towards the end. Lastly – hardware. Put on the buttons.