A pair of well-worn 19th-century Levi’s jeans — featuring a racist slogan — has sold at an auction for $76,000.
Kyle Hauper, a 23-year-old vintage clothing collector from San Diego, snapped up the rare jeans dating from the 1880s at the Durango Vintage Festivus auction in New Mexico on Oct. 1.
The second-hand jeans — hailed as “the holy grail of vintage denim collecting” — were discovered inside an abandoned mineshaft several years ago and are believed to be one of the oldest known Levi’s from that era.
The antique pants are even complete with a vile racist label characteristic of the times.
A label printed on the interior of the pocket declares: “the only kind made by White Labor” — a racially-charged slogan used by the company during a time of pervasive anti-Chinese discrimination in the US, the Wall Street Journal reported.
It was adopted following the passage of the xenophobic Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which barred Chinese laborers from entering the US for 10 years, a Levi’s spokesperson told the WSJ.
Levi’s said that the company’s owners thought the slogan would “improve sales and align with the views of consumers at the time.” It was then scrapped in the 1890s, the spokesperson added.
The act, meanwhile, was repealed in 1943.
Despite being more than a century old, the jeans with a 38-inch waist and 32-inch length are said to be in “good/wearable” condition, according to the listing.
The pants are still covered in specks of wax from candles used by prospectors who were searching for gold in narrow tunnels. They feature suspender buttons and a single back pocket.
Haupert bought the jeans as an investment together with Zip Stevenson, the long-time owner of a vintage denim store in Los Angeles, with the former ponying up 90% of the bid and the latter kicking in the other 10%.
The total price of the historic jeans came out to be a whopping $87,000 with a buyer’s premium factored in.
“I’m still kind of bewildered, just surprised in myself for even purchasing them,” Haupert told the Journal.PREVIOUS
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