Have you heard about the Big E red tab? Maybe you are wondering what
everyone is talking about. In regard to vintage jeans, the Big "E"
refers to Levi jeans that were manufactured before 1971.
Actually, they were used between 1936 to 1971 (not sure what month they
started and stopped).
That trademark is officially known as the “Tab Device." You may
know it as or call it “the red Tab" found near the back pocket on Levi
1936 The red
Tab is first placed onto the right back pocket of the overalls. The
word “Levi’s® is stitched in white in all capital letters on one
side only. The Tab is created to differentiate Levi’s® overalls from
the many competitors in the marketplace who were using dark denim
and an Arcuate stitch.
1971 The word
“Levi’s® on the red Tab device is now stitched in white with a
capital “L" only; the “E" looks like it changed, leading to the
vintage clothing concept of “Big E" and “little e." This was done to
conform to the company’s new housemark – the “batwing" – which was
adopted in 1967 and in which the word “Levi’s" is meant to be the
proper name of our founder, Levi Strauss.
It the tab device was first used in 1936 (and LEVI'S was
spelled with all upper case letters), but let's
first discuss the story of why it was needed. Levi Strauss & Co.
and tailor Jacob Davis received a U.S. patent to make riveted denim
pants in 1873. Unfortunately, patents don't last forever. In 1890,
the patent went into the public domain which meant competitors could
start using rivets on pants to provide extra durability. Brands such as
Stronghold, Can’t Bust ‘Em, Boss of the Road and others started flooding
the western market with dark blue, riveted denim jeans, which also
happened to have a leather patch on the waistband and pocket stitching
that was suspiciously similar to the Levi's Arcuate stitching design.
In 1936, the company figured out a way to make it easier for
consumers to find authentic Levi's. The company decided on a
folded cloth ribbon in the structural seam of a rear patch pocket.
The word LEVI’S® was woven in white on the red ribbon and it was sewn
onto the right back pocket of the 501® jeans.
The Tab Device was registered as a trademark, and in 1938 it was
first used on Levi’s® jackets. Beginning in the early 1960s the Tab
Device color moved beyond red to white, orange, black, and silver. These
represented different lines of clothing, from corduroy flares to boot
cut jeans to womenswear.
The famous Big E tab. The (R) on the tab also denotes jeans Regular
more common little e tab. that were made after 1950 - When the ® started
to appear as Levi's red tab had became a registered trademark.
Big E tab AND without Rivets
By 1966, technology had caught up with history, and it was possible
bar tack the 501® Jean’s back pockets, replacing the back pocket
rivets. This small change maintained the jean’s notorious durability,
while finally solving that decades-long issue of the exposed rivets
scratching up furniture. This particular style of 501® Jean—with
tacks and a big “E" red Tab—only existed from 1966 to 1971.
Above image from Levi's website.
A rounded top block and tapered leg, made from Cone Mills 12 oz. red
selvedge denim. Featuring two back pockets with bar tacks instead of
rivets (unique to years 1966-1971), Two Horse leather-like patch, twin
needle Arcuate, big “E" double sided Red Tab.
See the modern version with Levi's lower case e red tab. (photo
Apparel Search took June 2017)
Explore Levi's to learn more
about the Levi's red tab.
Resources of Information: