50 years in 50 weeks: 1997, Levi's blues

  • by BAR staff
  • Wednesday October 6, 2021
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Photo: Courtesy B.A.R. Archive
Photo: Courtesy B.A.R. Archive

LGBTQs who embraced Levi's popular button fly 501 blue jeans were in for a shock when the May 15, 1997 Bay Area Reporter had a cover story on the possibility of San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co. no longer selling the denim items in some establishments. Leather columnist Mister Marcus, aka Marcus Hernandez, broke the news, writing that in 1995 the company began notifying about two-dozen retailers — out of some 3,500 outlets — that they "were not conducive to our brand image." Among those targeted were the Leather Rack in Washington, D.C. and Male Hide Leathers in Chicago. A Levi's spokeswoman said the move had nothing to do with the fact that the clientele at these stores were predominantly gay, it had to do with sexual paraphernalia being sold at the establishments. Leather store retailers said the decision smacked of discrimination and brought up the possibility of a national boycott. That doesn't appear to have happened, and today, Levi's is one of the most LGBTQ-friendly companies in the country, with a store in San Francisco's LGBTQ Castro district. For nearly 20 years it has received a perfect 100 score on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index. To view the issue, click here.

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