If there’s one unarguable truth about Levi’s, it’s that it is the brand of the people. From toddlers to retirees, factory workers to graphic designers who dress like factory workers—not to mention college students, billionaires, and pop stars—Levi’s crosses just about every social, political, economic, gender, and generational boundary imaginable. A shared trait, it turns out, with Justin Timberlake.
Standing in the crowd at his recent Man of the Woods tour stop in Memphis, we couldn’t help but notice that just about every demographic was represented: moms, teens, tweens, frat bros, 20-somethings, middle age dudes who really, really can’t dance, and pretty much any other type you can think of. So who better for a collaboration with Levi’s?
Hitting stores this April is Timberlake’s second capsule collection for the brand, a lineup of truckers, hoodies, trucker/hoodie hybrids, graphic tees, and jeans all gathered under the name “Fresh Leaves”, a riff on the idea that these are updated twists on Levi’s classics. Mining his Memphis childhood for inspiration, Timberlake includes references to his favorite hometown attractions (some current, some long gone), like the Zippin Pippin rollercoaster and Skateland roller rink, as well University of Memphis Tigers basketball. There are also two styles of jean created just for him—a 501 Slim Taper and the new-for-this-season 502 Taper.
We got a chance to chat with the Grammy-winning artist over a plate of Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken—a local treat he never misses while in town—after his show. He spoke about how Memphis has influenced both his music and his style, his life long love of Levi’s, and getting his own fit of jeans.
“Yeah, Memphis has always been a huge part of me as a musician. You can’t mention Memphis without its music history. And fashion has always been synonymous with music; I think one really influences the other. And here, you’re literally at the crossroads of blues, country, rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm and blues, and soul. So it’s only natural that as an aspiring musician, you look at the musicians you admire and you see their style and emulate those things. You find those things in yourself and interpolate them and remix them in a way. And then, with this Levi’s collaboration specifically, Memphis became a huge part of it because we started going back to research the places and things I loved as a kid here. Like this skating rink called Skateland, or there was a roller coaster here called Zippin Pippin. So we used those as reference points”.
“I feel like my parents had me in Levi’s before I can even remember my first pair of Levi’s. But I definitely remember having pairs that me and my friends used to stitch things on. We would get patches and stitch them on, and paint on them. I remember there was one pair of Levi’s I had as a kid that I just went full Jackson Pollock on. They’re like a canvas, so you can personalize them in that way”.
“It’s interesting for me now to be partnering with Levi’s. It’s like, if you were to think of all of these different styles [of music], and if you had a music festival with all of these different styles, and each had their own stage, you could go to each one of those stages and find people in Levi’s. It’s like a cornerstone, or a centerpiece, for a lot of different styles. Not just with music, but with people too. And now, you see so much style being cross-culturalized and moving across different genres. And with Levi’s, they’re so reliable. You get a fit that you like and you know that fit is going to stay”.
“Yeah, that’s the one thing, even in the first go around [with the collaboration], we spent so much time on. Because I wanted my own fit of jeans. And that’s one thing that you can do with Levi’s, you can actually tailor them now. But I wanted to have my own fit that was a little but slimmer from the knee to the ankle, so the 501ST [Slim Taper] was the first one. And that’s the beauty of getting to do this, now I can just swerve to different washes of the jeans with every season. You can do different washes and different treatments, but now I feel like I have my own fit of jeans”.
“Yeah. I remember they sent me the box with them and they were like, ‘These are the ones we made specifically for tour, so take very good care of them’. But I was like, ‘Hey man, getting beat up is what they’re made for’. Other than just a white T-shirt, I think a pair of jeans are really a canvas, and I think that’s why artists like them”.
“We really spent as much time on all of the designs as possible, until they cut us off. They were like, ‘Look, nothing’s going to be shipped’, so I was like, ‘Okay”. But you know, it’s the same thing I do with my albums. I’ll just sit there and mix until they say … what’s that saying? ‘The best way to get something done in five minutes is when there’s five minutes to get it done?’ It’s like, we have to be cut off. Writers, songwriters, musicians”.
“Yeah, you always do that. You always think about what you’re going to be wearing on stage. And, interestingly enough, you’re always surprised about what works on stage. There was a lot of serendipity this time around because of the album title, the title of the tour [Man of the Woods], and what we were able to make with Levi’s. All of it just made sense. With the set that I was able to design, you want to create a world when people walk into the arena, and Levi’s just made it easy. And just the little details of the collection. I’m a detail freak, so I never want anything to look, like, overblown, you know. I ended up doing that a lot when I was in a group, so…”
I think there might be photographic evidence of that.
“Maybe I have PTSD. Just put me in some jeans”.