As the weeks have passed and I’ve explored further parts of the city of San Francisco, I’ve noticed how many companies are headquartered throughout this concrete jungle. Observing the headquarters of Twitter, Uber, Slack, Linkedin, Lyft, and other big names has really educated me on what this incredible city means to companies and businesses worldwide. I recently discovered that Levi’s was founded in San Francisco, and this fascinated me as Levi’s is my favorite company. Levi’s was founded in San Francisco after the gold rush with one goal in mind: to provide the working class with clothes built to endure anything you throw at them. The blue denim of this red-logoed apparel giant has become synonymous with style for the everyday man and working-class people across the world.
I am a personal fan of the Levi’s 541, a longer, high waisted version of their denim as I am on the taller end of guys. There is something about the consistent quality of the cloth, as it always feels substantial and snug around the legs. The blues don’t bleed, as Levi’s dying process when they manufacture their jeans is comprehensive and tested with over 150 years of production creating their iconic jeans.
I know, I’m starting to sound like an advertisement, but to me, there is no other company with deeper roots in American clothing than Levi’s. As I’ve learned the history of Levi’s brand, I’ve also realized the significance of San Francisco’s history in the United States.
When Levi Strauss came to San Francisco in 1853, he was no different from the thousands of other immigrants that filled the city in this decade. He was a Bavarian immigrant that came for the promise of not only gold but the wealth of opportunities in the United States that were being advertised throughout the world at the time. The reality of these opportunities and those who they were afforded to is a much more sad and tragic story, but in the case of an entrepreneur that got lucky designing the first denim blue jeans, it’s a success story. This is why San Francisco has become such a meaningful place for businesses and companies worldwide. The city represents not only hardship and failure but also determination and success that are often attributed to the American dream.
Don’t get me wrong, I know the American dream is often misconstrued, redefined, and oftentimes just a lie, but the concept of this great dream is that it’s always changing and being innovated upon to offer more to the growing, diverse population in the United States. This has been the case for years as the U.S. has seen prosperity and decline, and Levi’s is not innocent in some of the failures either. My least favorite part of the company is their succumbing to pressures for globalization in the 1980s when they closed 60 of their manufacturing plants in the U.S. and moved production overseas. As many American brands have done, like GM and IBM, Levi’s cost thousands of Americans jobs, insurance, pensions, and life security as they moved to cheaper locations for production. This is why the American dream can be misconstrued, as Levi’s was founded with the dream in mind, but has also robbed thousands of Americans of their own.
To avoid ending on a bad note, although Levi’s has seen its pitfalls, it has shaped a lot of America’s culture today. They’ve contributed in a major way to the collection of iconic brands that make being an American so unique and recognizable. In my mind, living in a city that has contributed so much to this culture makes me excited to be here, and I can’t wait to understand more of it.