Alien jeans

Today’s Wayno / Piraro Bizarro, featuring the straight-leg denim favored by the spacefolk who visit us in the Nevada desert:

(#1) Levi’s 501® Originals, always the choice of the discerning visitors to Area 51 in Nevada (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 6 in this strip — see this Page)

So: Area 501 is a goofy portmanteau of Area 51 and 501 (jeans).

Two parts: the Area 51 part, the 501 denim part.

The Area 51 part. From my 3/7/18 posting “Aria 51”, about this Rhymes With Orange cartoon:

(#2) This is, among other things, a space alien joke, taking off from the United States Air Force facility commonly known as Area 51, a highly classified test area in Nevada

Two relevant components of this joke. First, space aliens — in the conventional imagery, the space alien

(#3) is a composite of two figures: the grey alien and the little green man (more in the 2018 posting

And then Area 51:

(#4) From Wikipedia: Novels, films, television programs, and other fictional portrayals of Area 51 describe it — or a fictional counterpart — as a haven for extraterrestrials, time travel, and sinister conspiracies (again, more in the 2018 posting)

Note that there’s no significance in the number 51. Various special areas were given numbers for reference, as the need arose. And that’s it. Things turn out to be more complicated in  the jeans world.

The 501 jeans part. From my 9/28/20 posting “Straight men’s jeans” (but putting aside the play on the ambiguity of straight), the Levi Strauss homepage copy about:


The original blue jean since 1873.
The original straight fit jean.
90’s inspired look and feel.
All-American style

More from the homepage on the history, with a huge dollop of ad copy:

It began with a patent back in 1873. A way to add rivets to denim work pants, making them more durable for a tough day in the mines. These work pants are what we now call blue jeans, 501® Originals. They’re still tough. Still resilient. And yes, many of us still wear them to work. But in their time, they’ve come to embody something you can’t patent: style. Rule-breaking, gender-bending, Wild West, do-what-you-want style. The kind that’s been defining cool for decades. The kind you can only find in a pair of straight-fit, button-fly jeans, loved and lived-in to perfection.

But, but, you’re saying, why the number 501? Surely not just the next number up in assigning numbers to styles, back in 1873. The company recognizes the issue, poignantly, but here’s all they can offer:

Lot numbers are first assigned to the products being manufactured. 501 is used to designate the famous copper-riveted waist overalls. We don’t know why this number was chosen. We also made a 201 jean, which was a less expensive version of the pants, as well as other products using other three-digit numbers. Because of the loss of our records in 1906 [in the gigantic fires after the great earthquake], the reasons for many of these changes are unknown.

There was presumably some kind of logic behind the lot / style numbers, but it’s lost forever. But: there’s no secret code at work.

One Response to “Alien jeans”

  1. Aric Olnes Says:

    I sold Levi’s in downtown San Francisco at the Emporium on Market Street for many years (circa 1986-1999) and tourists would go crazy for Levi’s often pronounced (Levees) “You have Levees?!” I made my living selling stacks of slacks. The tourist customers would ask where the nearest laundry mat was. Turns out they liked to tear off labels, wash them and put them in their luggage to avoid paying Duty tax upon returning home.
    For awhile, Levi’s dusted off their original Al 60″ looms to re-create the original Levi’s pant. They came in a cardboard box, unwashed and sold for a then outrageous price of $99 US.

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