levis overseas
November 2, 2005 3:08 PM   Subscribe

Is it true that Levis jeans go for "big bucks" overseas... or am I just making this up. If not, where do I go online to emplty my closet-O-Levis.
posted by bamassippi to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This was true up to about 15 years ago but not so much anymore. There might still be some places where bubblegum is a commodity, though.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:21 PM on November 2, 2005

I think that's not so much the case any more; Levis has outlets more or less everywhere. I recently bought 511s in Bombay - wish I could find the suckers here, though.
posted by metaculpa at 3:21 PM on November 2, 2005

Before the Iron Curtain fell, Levis were very much sought after in Eastern Europe/Russia on the black market, and I know people who'd go over with a case full of denim and come back with a wallet full of dollars - rubles were not accepted!

These days, with opening-up of communist europe and the ever-insidious creep of capitalism, as has been mentioned above - you can now buy them pretty legitimately almost anywhere...
posted by benzo8 at 3:27 PM on November 2, 2005

I have lugged untold pairs of Levis jeans across the Atlantic to Sweden, but the requests for jeans dwindled around the mid 90:s, and I haven't brought a pair with me since at least 1995 (now it's mostly golf clubs).

The reason for the demand, as far as I could tell, was that brand name jeans (of which Levis was the best known) were incredibly expensive - I could buy three pairs of new jeans in the US for what they cost there - but I don't think that's true anymore.

I do believe that there is some overseas demand for "vintage" jeans, although I have no idea where to go for that. Someone else will, though, I'm sure!
posted by gemmy at 3:27 PM on November 2, 2005

I asked a similar question in AskMe a while back... got some insight on the nature of the market but no real answers about where to go. Will be following this thread with interest.
posted by cadastral at 3:28 PM on November 2, 2005

Also... perhaps not "big bucks", but standard 501s are sold in the UK for about the same number of pounds sterling as dollars in US. (that was awkward... what I mean is.. $45 in US, &pound45 in UK. Which is about $80 at today's exchange rate).

Needless to say, there are measures in place to discourage exploitation of this inequality. I get the feeling that it is not impossible to overcome this on a scale large enough to profit from it... but I haven't the faintest how to do it. You might talk to some shady characters at a back table bocci club for some advice.
posted by cadastral at 3:36 PM on November 2, 2005

Depends how old they are, what condition etc. Vintage jeans can go for megabucks - I've seen some for £350 /pair - but they have to be a particular style, age etc. Unworn late-60s / early 70s are the higest value. Stonewashed 80s / 90s rejects aren't worth much, if anything.
posted by blag at 3:40 PM on November 2, 2005

Forgot to mention that Japan is probably the largest (and certainly the highest-spending) vintage denim market in the world.
posted by blag at 3:40 PM on November 2, 2005

Japan is also the prime supplier of ringspun denim for upscale jeans ($200US range), along with Italy and the US. The more you know.
posted by kcm at 3:42 PM on November 2, 2005

The big bucks nowadays are in counterfeit jeans.
posted by Smart Dalek at 3:49 PM on November 2, 2005

Worn Levi's jeans from your closet? no.

In Asia and especially Japan and HK, there is still moderate demand for preserved, unworn vintage or reissued "vintage" denim. These are typically sold through specialty vintage stores or auction websites (Yahoo Auctions Japan). Also the uber-expensive limited edition Levi's such as these. To restate, these high-value jeans are the type that are in limited supply throughout the world, not just in certain countries.
posted by junesix at 3:49 PM on November 2, 2005

Incidently, there was a Levis commercial around ten years ago with a guy driving around with no pants on, the tagline being " In Prague, you can trade them for a car".
posted by bobo123 at 3:53 PM on November 2, 2005

Incidently, there was a Levis commercial around ten years ago with a guy driving around with no pants on, the tagline being " In Prague, you can trade them for a car".

I remember that - great ad. You probably still could for an old Skoda, Trabant, Dacia, Yugo or Lada.
posted by loquax at 4:13 PM on November 2, 2005

The anecdotes I could give you working men's clothing retail through college in the late 80s -- every last one of them had to do with a European or a Russian coming into the store and making my quota for the week on cheap Levi's 501s.

They never liked the loose fit. Always the button-flys.
posted by thanotopsis at 4:15 PM on November 2, 2005

You want to make bank? Try selling Old Navy to Iran. Everything in the shops there is fake, but Fake Old Navy jeans ran $100+ to Energie and Armani's $30-50 as recently as last year. Anything American goes for a premium in places where the regime is Anti-American.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 4:16 PM on November 2, 2005

Trading a pair of jeans for a Trabant is a bad deal.
It's even worse if you get two Trabants.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 4:31 PM on November 2, 2005

I recently quit wearing Levis when I learned that they are now made in China. Take it from there.
posted by snsranch at 4:58 PM on November 2, 2005

In downtown Milan, new 501s cost between 70 and 80 euros (85-95 dollars). but the cool kids never wear run-of.the-mill Levi's anymore -- they other go for the vintage models, as stated above, or they just choose the really obscure Japanese premium brands
posted by matteo at 5:04 PM on November 2, 2005

(me, I really like Earnest Sewn and Paper Denim and Cloth. but I still have a few pairs of perfectly good 501s)
posted by matteo at 5:05 PM on November 2, 2005

they either go for the vintage models

my bad
posted by matteo at 5:06 PM on November 2, 2005

How much do 501s go for in North Korea?
posted by b1tr0t at 5:18 PM on November 2, 2005

As others have mentioned, the reverse is probably more true today...some people are willing to pay a lot more for certain brands of jeans imported from Japan because their quality is so much higher than the factory-produced US jeans.

The reason is that the vintage denim looms from America have ended up in Japan, where they've been lovingly restored. I'm in a bit of a rush and can't find a good citation for this, but this message board thread discusses it to an extent. It also illustrates how nuts some people are for quality denim.

I'm not quite as bad as that, but if I had a friend flying to Japan, yeah, I'd probably ask him to bring me back a pair of jeans. I have a pair of A.P.C. jeans that were made in Japan and they're my absolutely favorite non-suit non-Etro piece of clothing.

Please appreciate that I'm going out on a limb by admitting on MetaFilter that I've spent $185 on a pair of jeans. In my defense, I have no problem spending good money for things I'll wear at least four days a week, and which are so well made that they'll last at least ten years.

(Sorry if I sound so defensive. It just seems like every AskMe fashion thread is drowned out by these lowest-common-denominator faux-populists who claim they don't care about that ridiculous scam called fashion.)(Yet, for people who claim they don't care about fashion, I'm sure they dress exactly like everyone else in their respective peer groups.)

Weird...I just did a search for A.P.C. and found this interview with Jean Touitou, the designer of the line, where he sorta mentions the Japanese looms and what goes into high-quality denim. (Scroll down to "And look what you started!") Turns out, French fashion designers are pretty much exactly like you think they are; this reads like an interview with The Morovingian...

As someone else mentioned, high-quality vintage items are worth a lot overseas, particularly things that probably aren't floating around, say, Swedish thrift stores. Cowboy boots, I've heard, fetch especially high prices. (I'm not sure what the Internet and eBay have done to this market, though.)
posted by Ian A.T. at 5:19 PM on November 2, 2005

From what I saw (and bought) in Moldova two years ago--I couldn't find any Levi's jeans. The most "fake" jeans, however, that I saw in the various markets were Diesel and other similar Italian products, including the now ubiquitous "CCCP"-sportsware.

That said, many wealthy types (usually the Russians in Moldova) import haute couture and other textiles from Paris, Rome, Madrid etc to Moldova sell them at extremely inflated prices in "boutiques" that are found in Chisinau, the capital.
posted by vkxmai at 5:42 PM on November 2, 2005

Ian A.T.: Word, bro. My $180 paper denims are my baby, and I'm NOT ashamed, haha.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 6:02 PM on November 2, 2005

Not the case in (South) Korea, as far as I'm aware.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:46 PM on November 2, 2005

In Sydney the big thing seems to be American cowboy boots, preferably worn out. I'm serious. The hippies in Newtown go wild for them.
posted by web-goddess at 12:20 AM on November 3, 2005

Diesel jeans are the ones. No one could give a flying fork about Levis anymore.

I sold a ten year old pair of Diesel Selvedge 31" for £50 on ebay recently. And I had kicked the arse out of them over several years which saw many spillages and god knows what else.
Having said that they cost me about £120 new (back then).
posted by ClanvidHorse at 5:47 AM on November 3, 2005

I think Americans probably care more about Levi's, now. I've seen more people take an interest in vintage or designer denim lately than before, and if it's making it to the barely-urban midwest, it's probably been everywhere else.

The problem with US Levi's is that pretty much every line has a larger cut than the European equivalent. Supposedly even the 501s are larger than the ones sold overseas, due to rapidly expanding Americans. In other words, the cool ones are from elsewhere.

It's interesting to read about some designer denim fanatics if you're in the majority of the population that wears jeans, tosses them in the washer and dryer, and then wears them again for a day or two. Seeing people toss around terms like "selvedge" and "dry denim" while talking about small-batch Japanese jeans is pretty crazy. The "wear patterns" that come pressed into some new jeans are pretty dumb when you see pictures of pants that some Japanese guy wore every day for five years without washing.
posted by mikeh at 7:40 AM on November 3, 2005

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