The Levi’s® brand has drifted, like so many global capitalist ventures, far from its homely inception (as a collaboration between a tailor and a denim supplier selling jeans to Western farmers), while attempting to “sell” contemporary consumers the same image. When we wear Levi’s® we are propagating an image they have harvested from times long past. Since 1996, when they moved almost all of their production to Asia and spent an estimated $90 million dollars on advertising, they can no longer be called an “American Tradition”.
After it was discovered some of its business partners overseas treating their workers as indentured slaves, the spell the company invested most of its money in (including this Whitman ad) began to break for those consumers aware of the company’s activities.* By singling out political movements that “complex, essential social ideas, for which many people have spent lifetimes fighting,” and using Whitman’s revolutionary poetry, Levi’s has trivialized real radicalism while ‘making a killing’ of profit.
*No Logo. Naomi Klein. Pg 361, 200.
After I learned more about the brand, I cut off or ripped off their logo from three pairs of jeans I have.
Since most global corporations sell little more than the image associated with the logo, destroying the brand image on your clothing is a powerful way to break their spell on consumers and return the clothing back to what it is–just denim, knitted by hard work. That’s more American and more Whitmanian, anyways.
Try Disbranding for yourself!
1. Take clothes you bought before you knew their dirty little secrets and rip off every logo from inside and out
2. (Optional) Sew on political affinity patches on your own. Ex. “Made in China” (if you want to be an ironic hipster).
3. From now on, try not to buy clothes from big brands. If you’re in a bind, go to vintage or Goodwill clothing Non-profits. If you get brands in this way, go back to step 1!
I like this idea and agree that Levis and many other clothing manufacturers need reform. However, ripping the name off the clothes does not change the fact that they were made by workers barely paid enough to live and marked up exponentially for someone else’s profit. I feel that homage would be better paid to Whitman in searching for American made clothes and products, unfortunately, not an easy task. I can only imagine Whitman’s disappointment in learning Americans dependence on cheap, nearly slave labor in foreign countries in order to make a buck and feed our addiction to consumption. What about the worth and value of all individuals, shouldn’t they be paid for it?