Levi Strauss & Co. established its brand in the mid-19th century
by selling durable clothing to working-class Americans. As
Levi’s signature jeans gained popularity amongst a wider set in
the middle of the last century, the pants came to symbolize
American freedom. As Stanford Historian Niall Ferguson points
out in his book, Civilization: The West and the Rest, during the
Cold War, the American pants were so desirable behind the Iron
Curtain that citizens would break any number of laws to obtain
them. At one point the company even celebrated America’s armed
heritage in a circa 1950 advertising brochure, “Levi’s Gallery
of Western Guns & Gunfighters.” It’s with some irony then that
Levi’s has abandoned this rugged image to team up with a
billionaire oligarch in an effort to empower the government to
trample upon the fundamental rights of the American people.
On September 4th, Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh announced that the San
Francisco-based clothing manufacturer (which also owns Dockers)
would openly advocate for gun control. As part of this campaign,
the company will donate more than $1 million to radical anti-gun
groups, including Michael Bloomberg front-group Everytown for
Gun Safety and Giffords, formerly Americans for Responsible
Solutions and the Legal Community Against Violence. The company
will also match employee donations to these groups and is
encouraging its staff to devote their time to anti-gun activism.
Further, Bergh stated that the company has joined the Everytown
Business Leaders for Gun Safety. The business wing of
Bloomberg’s outfit is dedicated to leveraging member companies’
“market footprint… employee networks, [and] public
communications platforms” to diminish Americans’ Second
In a repulsive insult to the nation’s 100 million gun owners,
Bergh likened Levi’s campaign to restrict the rights of law-
abiding Americans to previous company efforts aimed at
combatting pre-Civil Rights Era racial bigotry.
Among gun owners, Levi’s intemperate foray into the world of gun
control politics has been met with the disgust it deserves.
However, it shouldn’t be met with surprise.
Since the late 1990s, Levi’s has used its name and resources to
attack gun rights. In 1999, the company gave $100,000 to gun
control group PAX, followed by a $250,000 donation in 2000 and
another $100,000 in 2001.
PAX was founded in 1998 by Dan Gross, who went on to become
president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. PAX
would go on to change its name to the Center to Prevent Youth
Violence and later merge with the Brady Campaign.
Much like Bloomberg’s Everytown, PAX placed an emphasis on
attracting corporate partners to their gun control efforts. As
part of Levi’s relationship with PAX, in 1999 the apparel
company teamed up with the band Goo Goo Dolls to attract support
for the anti-gun group during the Levi’s Fuse ’99 summer concert
tour. Concert goers, and visitors to Levi’s website, were
encouraged to sign the PAX Youth Petition. Moreover, the denim
company donated a percentage of all Levi’s Fuse ’99 t-shirt
proceeds to the gun control group.
The PAX Youth Petition endorsed a variety of severe gun control
measures that have repeatedly been rejected by the American
public through their elected representatives. The document
called for the “licensing and registration of guns, like
automobiles.” The petition also demanded the “elimination of
assault weapons and other weapons of war.” As the 1994 Clinton
“Assault Weapons” ban was in place at the time of the petition,
this imprecise demand appeared to call for prohibiting the sale
of the remaining lawful semi-automatic firearms, confiscation of
the firearms grandfathered under the ban, or both.
Given the majority of Levi’s 165-year history, Bergh’s decision
to use a formerly-quintessential American company to attack a
quintessential American right is a particularly sad episode in
the current surge in corporate virtue-signaling. We can only
assume that Levi’s accountants have determined that resulting
skinny jeans sales will be enough to offset the permanent damage
to their once-cherished brand.