Levi’s 501 jeans have been a part of the American wardrobe for 150 years. From origins as a utilitarian piece of workwear, 501s have evolved into a fashion mainstay beloved by cowboys, biker gangs, and rap stars—and the everyday people who want to mimic their style.
Now Levi’s is writing the next chapter in the 501 story. In a push to envision a more sustainable future for clothing production, the brand has released the Plant-Based 501 Jean made from 97% plant-based materials, including certified organic cotton, natural dyes, a plant-based patch, and ink made from wood waste (the remaining 3% is made up of metal rivets, some minor strands of polyester sewing thread, and a polyester care label).
By now, we’ve all heard about the fashion industry’s penchant for pollution. To change that, brands will have to start making products like the Plant-Based 501. From textile sourcing to pigments and other details, Levi’s worked to make every part of these jeans more sustainable. The denim fabric is created from 100% Organ Cotton Standard certified cotton, which means the cotton was grown without pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. It’s dyed the old-fashioned way, using natural indigo from Stony Creek Colors, a Tennessee-based company that specializes in plant-based dyes.
Organic cotton and indigo recall how clothing used to be made before the introduction of synthetic textiles and additives, but other parts of the Plant-Based 501s showcase totally new sustainable materials. The back patch, for example, is made of MIRUM, a plastic-free, fully plant-derived material made from natural rubber, coconut fiber, rice hulls, and a natural colorant. The text on the jeans’ cotton pocket bag is printed with BioBlack TX, a pigment manufactured from wood waste. The metal rivets, a polyester care label, and a few polyester-wrapped cotton threads are the only parts not made from plants.
The Plant-Based 501s join two other flagship sustainable offerings from Levi’s. In 2022, the brand debuted the Circular 501 made with organic cotton and Circulose, a textile produced from recycled denim and textile waste. This year, Levi’s will also release several iterations of a hemp-cotton blend selvedge 501—a continuation of the brand’s previous experiments with eco-friendly hemp.
If you're looking to expand your denim lineup, replace a worn-out pair of jeans, or further embrace the plant-based future, you can’t go wrong with a (sustainably updated) classic.