Levis Still Unamerican
Taking an American icon overseas, and keeping it there.
What is American?
Now lets pause again for the "what is American conversation?" Levi is a young German immigrant, just turned American citizen who decides to go west and set up shop and finds immediate success'this is definitely looking like an American dream already.
Although the dry goods business worked out for Levi, he found his greatest success by partnering with Jacob Davis, also an immigrant, who had the idea for metal rivets to strengthen men's work pants. It was the meshing of this idea, and the contribution of Levi's' $68 that allowed the newly formed partnership to obtain the patent and subsequently corner the market on riveted clothing for some 17 years before the patent expired. Don't you just wish that you could give someone $68 to join stakes in what would turn into a 130 year old worldwide business?
This just reeks of what is American in my opinion. The innovation and ingenuity of only two men spawned what is now one of the most sustaining businesses and fashion icons in our country.
Ok, so you think Levi's sold out because they moved production overseas (and stayed there), let's give them a little bit of a break ' they are still headquartered in San Francisco (no? ok). This is where I ask is it more American to leave the US for production or not. How many clothing brands can you name that are still actually made in America?
Still, Levi's gets some credit in my book (2 points ' Levi's) for keeping things on US soil for 100 years. Even though they had initial success with work pants in the 19th century it wasn't until the mid 1960s when baby-boomers and casual clothing became popular that the company realized overwhelming success again.
By this time the commercials were debuting, the jeans were pre-shrunk and Levi's was being inducted into the Smithsonian (now ain't that American? 3 points ' Levi's)
The baby-booming, woodstocked, free-loving hippie denim trend was not enough to keep Levi's on top though. By the 90s Levi's faced increased competition from other brands and found themselves embroiled in a huge labor manufacturing scandal. I mean, come on, you aren't really American until you've gone through a scandal, right? This is probably where Levi's was scratching their heads, wondering if they made a mistake with overseas expansion.
It's reported that Levi's suffered declining sales for nearly ten years while fighting multiple patent infringement lawsuits, smoothing over employee stock options and partnering with Wal-Mart to develop a special line to be sold in the discount chain's' stores (Wal-Mart, really Levi's') Please note: none of this information is mentioned by Levi's in company timeline found on the Levi's website.
Levi's is said to be doing better now, experiencing an increase in sales in recent years, but there are also rumors that the company might go public after years of remaining as a private company, still owned by the family and descents of its founder.
There may not be a clear answer on whether Levi's is un-American or not since part of the American regime is Beauregarding your way into other countries (Occupy overseas). It's almost 'Un-American' not to make your business global if you are to be iconic. The very word speaks to your ability to be the choice and the most recognizable in your industry.
Keeping in line with their success in business and their creative contribution to culture, it's unlikely to think that Levi's would have any other choice than manufacturing and selling beyond the US.
Given that the creators of Levi's were both immigrants leads me to another thought: "are Levi's really American anyway?". Does an idea or an invention belong to the place where it was created or the place where the creator came from? 'woosah'
I think the length and breadth of an icon can't be confined to any country or space. Though Levi's is an historic part of American culture, they're also a world icon and after more than 130 years in the game they still rank among the most popular brands, so it must be worth it for them be everywhere that they are. "To infinity and beyond!"