When the patent for Levi Strauss & Co.’s famous riveted pants expired around 1890, the company needed a way to authenticate its garments in the face of competition.
LS&Co. hit on the idea of creating something that could be seen when the pants were on the shelf of the local mercantile. A label — or Guarantee Ticket — was created and sewn onto the back pocket of the jeans to document details of the construction and verify that they were manufactured by Levi Strauss & Co.
The earliest known Guarantee Ticket was made of oilcloth. Prior to 1892, the wording on the ticket about fabric, fit and other elements was printed on the interior pocket bag, beginning with:
For Over [##] Years
Our Celebrated XX Blue Denim Copper
Riveted Overalls have been before the public
THIS IS A PAIR OF THEM!
The Guarantee Ticket incorporated key graphic elements with text. It included the Two Horse Design, identified the manufacture date of the pants, recognized the company’s commitment to quality (“Every pair guaranteed”) and denoted design details such as, “They are made of selected nine ounce Amoskeag Denim” or “Sewed with the strongest linen thread.”
The ticket also recognized notable honors and boldly declared garment quality. A shield shape featured top honors such as “Grand Silver Medal Awarded by Mechanics’ Institute” and “Silver Medal Awarded by Cal. State Fair.” The ticket even challenged customers to thoroughly inspect the pants: “We shall thank you to carefully examine the sewing, finish and fit.”
Some elements of the Guarantee Ticket eventually changed. When LS&Co. transitioned from Amoskeag Denim to Cone Mills by the 1920s, for instance, the ticket noted simply, “American denim.” Another example? The word “linen” was removed from “strongest linen thread.” And after 50 years, “This is a pair of Levi’s®” replaced the wording, “This is a pair of them.”
The Levi Strauss & Co. Archives has examples of most of the original Guarantee Tickets. They are a study in the evolution of the 501® jean and its construction, fit and marketing over 125 years.