Favorite U.S. Stores #5 – Levi’s in San Francisco

Mainpoint – Levi Strauss, legendary clothing maker is making clothing made in U.S.A. again, finding it is more difficult. You need to go to the Corporate store in San Francisco.

I can not think of anything more American than blue jeans, when it comes to clothing. And when you think of blue jeans, there is no bigger name than Levi Strauss. They had been the leading maker of jeans for over a century, and are based in San Francisco. But then a some years back, Levi’s like everybody else started making their jeans elsewhere. It was up until very recently, that I had given up completely on Levi’s as a maker of U.S. made jeans. But, on March 2011, Levi’s put out a news blurb that they were going to start making jeans again “Made in the U.S.A.” (in a limited quantity). So, I searched and searched to find them.  All the Levi’s outlets didn’t have them and most salespeople had never even heard about them. On one trip, I went to the Levi’s store in the Valley Fair Mall in San Jose, CA  and the manager said they had one pair that was returned to them, but they did not sell them in the store. But, then she gave me some wonderful information: the corporate store in San Francisco sells the American made jeans!

The Corporate Store

So, I went to the corporate store at 1155 Battery Street, in San Francisco. It is right off the Embarcadero (a famous street in S.F.) and only a half mile from Fisherman’s Wharf, a famous tourist attraction. But before I could go shopping, I had to go to Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch, because it was Dungeness Crab season, which had just started two weeks ago. Within Fisherman’s Wharf, there is a slew of good restaurants anxiously ready to serve you fresh Dungeness Crab. I enjoyed a great lunch and then made my way to the corporate headquarters. The corporate headquarters is part of Levi’s Plaza. The plaza (or park/plaza) is a couple of blocks consisting of large buildings connected by brick walkways and a small park (a downtown oasis) across the street (looking towards the ocean), and on the other side, one can see stairs traversing a very steep and impressive hill that leads to Coit Tower (a SF landmark and a name that the French people just love). The Levi building is an impressive looking building about seven stories high, constructed with brick and glass with aggressive newer architecture seen in the 1990’s. As I entered the building, there were streams of people going into this glass building and going up the elevators to their respective offices, it was only because they all had to go through a security checkpoint that I decided that this was not the way to the store. I asked at the receptionist desk where the store was and they pointed me to a large glass cubicle inside a larger glass cubicle. This was the store.

The corporate store is a much smaller store than most outlets. It can be very busy on the weekends and it is kind of slow during mid-week. As I walked in, I was met almost immediately by a salesperson who asked if he could help me. I said that I was looking for American clothes. And not only did he know what I was talking about, he was able to show me a couple of styles of American made jeans for men and for women. Surprisingly, Levi’s sells denim jackets, made in U.S.A. The salesperson, also, showed me belts made by Tanner. One further surprise was some Outdoor wear – a joint effort between Filson and Levi’s. Furthermore, they carried a couple of boots, American made by Al’s Attires (fairly pricey – about the price of Wolverine 1000 mile boots). Another bit of information I learned is ‘Dockers’ is owned by Levi’s. There were some Dockers in the store and almost all of the Dockers are imported, except for a limited edition of a special T-shirt – made in the U.S. The salespeople were excellent. They were professional, yet friendly and quite knowledgeable (more knowledgeable than myself, I didn’t even know that ‘knowledgeable’ had an ‘e’ before ‘able’, thanks spellczech).

Shopping Spree

I put a sizable dent in my credit on this trip to Levi’s. The final tally: my wife found a two pair of jeans; I bought a pair of  “505” jeans, classic, straight leg jeans, I passed on the skinny jeans: and I purchased a denim jacket. I had not owned a denim jacket since high school in the late 1970’s, it seems like almost everything comes back in style if you wait long enough. These American jeans are manufactured in the very traditional denim. There are stiff, never been washed or broken in. The salesperson’s advice to break them in: wear the jeans for 6 months before washing them. When you wash them,  cold water, inside out, and hang them to dry, or dry clean them. The full retail price of the made in USA 505 jeans is $178, which is about $20 more than their good imported Levi’s jeans. However, on this day, there were giving $25 off any purchase over $150. So, I felt better, because it was a sale.

The Future of Levi’s

I asked about the success of the U.S. made Levi’s and the salesperson said that the items have been flying off the shelves. Noting their success, Levi’s has plans of making even more U.S. made products for 2012. That does seem to be the new trend, retro type clothing made in America, made by famous makers such as Levi’s, Ralph Lauren and Eddie Bauer.

“I have often said that I wish I had invented blue jeans: the most spectacular, the most practical, the most relaxed and non chalant. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity – all I hope for in my clothes.” – Yves Saint Laurent

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