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The Surprising Origins of Glenn Beck's Jeans


Conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck speaks at his "Restoring Honor" rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington in 2010

Photograph by Brendan Smialowski/The New York Times via Redux

Conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck speaks at his "Restoring Honor" rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington in 2010

On his television show this morning, Glenn Beck said he’s not a political pundit. He’s an entrepreneur. Then he began a nearly 10-minute infomercial for his new Made in America jeans, sold online by his 1791 Supply & Co. It’s named for the year the Bill of Rights was ratified. (And shouldn’t be confused with 1791apparel.com, which sells clothes “for the firearms enthusiast.”)

Beck says it was a Levi’s commercial last year, which seemed to celebrate Occupy Wall Street (or at least youthful protest), that made him want to create jeans of his own. “Levi’s wants to be the uniform of the progressive movement,” he said. “That’s when I took off my Levi’s.”

Funny thing, though: 1791 uses the same denim mill that Levi’s uses for its own Made in the USA products, most of its vintage collection, and some of its 501 jeans. The company, Cone Denim, has a facility in Greensboro, N.C., called White Oak. Beck addressed the matter on his show, saying of his jeans: “We make them from the same company that Levi’s gave up on.” But Levi’s has been getting some of its denim from Cone since 1915. A spokesperson for Levi’s confirmed this, but declined to comment on 1791 jeans.

The ad for 1791 jeans takes another dig at Levi’s: “These were the first American blue jeans. The jeans that built America. And they were built in America. Built at a time when things were timeless. A time when you knew things would last. A time when people worked for their dreams and their dreams worked for them.” Levi’s, of course, made the first American jeans, which were patented by Levi Strauss and a tailor named Jacob Davis in 1873.

Beck’s jeans, available in two styles for men, cost $129.99 and are only available in limited numbers. He also said he’d like to eventually have the workers sign the inside of a pocket of every pair of jeans they produce. The factory is in Kentucky, Beck announced, but he didn’t give the company name.

Susan-berfield-photo-200x200
Berfield is a writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York. Follow her on Twitter @susanberfield.

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