Whether it’s a sturdy pair of 501® jeans or a Levi’s® Trucker jacket passed down the generations, our products are special to the people who wear them. What’s more, there’s often a story behind the purchase or the product.
Welcome to “Tales from the Vault,” where we highlight some of the best stories shared with our Archives by brand fans and employees. In this installment, we share testimonials from those who spoke of pants so strong that they have not only withstood the test of time but also monkey attacks, toppled forklifts and tumbles down a hill.
Monkey See, Monkey Bite
In her early years at Levi Strauss & Co., Kim Shern, senior manager of trade compliance, bought her pair of 515 white capris at an employee sample sale. She would later bring them on a trip to Nepal, where they would prove to be a travel essential for wild reasons.
While watching a Hindu festival downtown, Kim noted that “there were monkeys everywhere. Big monkeys…the size of a baboon.” She then locked eyes with one sitting on a bridge and snapped a picture of it from a distance. But when she turned to leave, the primate jumped and attacked her leg, causing her to bleed profusely.
Upon instruction from a nurse she befriended on the trip, Kim immediately rushed to see a doctor. An hour later, she found herself in an emergency room in Kathmandu, “which was a thousand times scarier than the monkey attack,” she recalled. Fortunately, the only medical treatment she needed was a rabies shot – no stitches required.
“I like to attribute narrowly escaping a shredded leg to the quality of the denim in the Levi’s® jeans,” she said. “These are now my favorite travel pants – maybe they’re my lucky travel pants – and still come with me on every trip.”
Falling in My 501®
In the summer of 1989, Reed O’Donnell took a job in Naknek, Alaska at a salmon processing plant. One day, the college student was en route to a facility down by the river when the breaks on his forklift “went mushy.”
Trouble ensued: the vehicle flipped on its side, pinning Reed’s leg to the ground and breaking his femur bone.
Despite this injury, Reed believes things would have been worse without his Levi’s®, which prevented his skin from tearing. As he described: “[My leg] was repaired – they pounded a rod inside my femur – and then 54 weeks later it was taken out. And I did make a nice golf club putter out of it.”
But seriously, he added, “I do attribute having my leg today to the 501s that I was wearing at the time.”
“Like a Horror Movie”
For Alex Keeling, snagging his first pair of Levi’s® took some convincing. As an 11-year-old boy, his parents knew he’dquickly grow out of them, but he reasoned that they’d make good hand-me-downs. They caved.
It was only his second or third time wearing the pants when they were put to the ultimate durability test. His friends had told him to meet them on the other side of a hill, and the details of what happened next are “a little blurry” but end with him tumbling down the slope.
When he hit the bottom, he dusted himself off and took a few steps before realizing he was limping. Rolling up his pant leg, he made a startling discovery: “My knee was completely destroyed. It was like the hunchback took a swan dive off Notre Dame. It was like a horror movie – through a meat grinder.”
But according to Alex, that’s not the “best part of the story.” When he finally got home, he inspected the pants for damage – and found none.
“[There were] no holes, scratches, tears, rips or stains,” he said. “It looked like I literally pulled it off the shelf at a Levi’s® store.”