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No, Levi’s logo doesn’t symbolise torture of US slaves – it advertises strength of jeans

A Facebook post claims the Levi’s jeans “two horses” logo celebrates the historic torture of black slaves in the US.

It shows the logo, which has two horses harnessed to the pockets of a pair of jeans and are pulling in opposite directions. Below is an illustration of four horses tied to the hands and feet of a man enduring a method of execution called “quartering”.

“We wear brands thats are symbolic of their torture like a fad,” the post reads. “The Levi jeans logo is a depiction of how the slave owners used to take the defiant strong black man, tie him up to horses, set him on fire and let the horses rip him apart in front of his family.”

Is this true? We checked.



Quartering punishment for high treason


Quartering was a “cruel and unusual” type of execution in which the victim had each wrist and ankle tied to a rope that was then attached to a horse. As the animals were driven away, the victim's body was slowly ripped into four quarters, according to LiveScience.

The quartering victim was positioned horizontally. In the logo, the jeans are vertical.

Quartering was a common method of execution for those who committed high treason, but we could find no evidence it was commonly used for the torture, or killing, of slaves.

Britannica says quartering was officially abolished in 1870.

Levi Strauss & Co founded in California


Levi Strauss & Co, the company that patented the original Levi’s jeans, was set up in San Francisco, California in 1853.

California is on the west coast of the US, a distance from the slave-owning states of the US south. And it was not a slave-owning state. The 1848 constitution of California declared: “Neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude, unless for the punishment of crimes, shall ever be tolerated in this State.”

Levi Strauss, the founder of the company, was a Bavarian immigrant who did not own slaves.

Strong work trousers with metal rivets


Levi’s jeans were originally developed as sturdy work trousers made from a tough cotton cloth that came to be known as denim.

They were made even sturdier when their seams were reinforced with metal rivets.

The company received a patent for their work trousers on 20 May 1873. 

On that day, according to History.com, Levi Strauss and tailor Jacob Davis were “given a patent to create work trousers reinforced with metal rivets, marking the birth of one of the world's most famous garments: blue jeans”.

The patent can be viewed online.

‘Horses trying in vain to pull jeans apart’


To advertise the strength of their newly patented work trousers, Levi’s developed the “two horses” logo, and trademarked it in 1873.

“The company needed to quickly make sure consumers understood how good – and strong – the company’s jeans were, one of the answers was the image of two horses – each pulling in the opposite direction on the same pair of jeans, trying in vain to tear them apart,” says an article on the website Symbols.com.

More than this, “they understood that not all of their consumers spoke English as their first language. They also knew that not everyone in the remote West was literate.”

According to the book Icons of Style: Denim, published in 2015, the logo “has been used by Levi Strauss & Co continually since its creation in 1886, making it the fifth-oldest logo still in use to survive unchanged”.

The two horses logo represents the strength of the jeans and their metal rivets. It does not “symbolise” the torture of slaves. – Taryn Willows




 

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