Levi Strauss & Co.

Levi Strauss & Co., world’s largest maker of pants, noted especially for its blue denim jeans called Levi’s (registered trademark). Its other products include tailored slacks, jackets, hats, shirts, skirts, and belts, and it licenses the manufacture of novelty items. The company is headquartered in San Francisco.

The company traces its origin to Levi Strauss (1829–1902), a Bavarian immigrant who arrived in San Francisco in 1850 during the Gold Rush, bringing dry goods for sale to miners. Hearing of the miners’ need for durable pants, Strauss hired a tailor to make garments out of tent canvas. Later, denim was substituted, and copper riveting was added to pocket seams. A merchandising partnership of Strauss and his two brothers, Jonas and Louis, was formed in 1853.

After Strauss’s death in 1902, leadership of the company passed to four nephews and, after 1918, to in-laws, the Haas family. The company’s most spectacular growth occurred after 1946, when it decided to abandon wholesaling and concentrate on manufacturing clothing under its own label. By the 1960s, Levi’s and other jeans—once worn chiefly by American cowboys—had become popular worldwide. When the company went public in 1971, it was operating in 50 countries.

Despite these moves, sales stagnated, and in 2011 Levi Strauss hired Chip Bergh as CEO. He was credited with turning the company around as he instituted various changes, such as modernizing its e-commerce division and expanding overseas markets. In March 2019 Levi Strauss went public again, and its IPO raised more than $620 million.

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