The value of a vintage Levi’s “Cossack” jacket? It’s relative.
If it’s from Albert Einstein’s own closet, the answer is 110,500 pounds, or $146,744.
That’s how much Levi Strauss & Co. paid at a Christie’s auction in London for the brown leather jacket the famous physicist wore regularly, including on the cover of Time 1938 and even on holiday in Bermuda in 1935.
Einstein bought the jacket when he was becoming a U.S. citizen in the mid-Thirties and wore it regularly. The seller acquired it directly from Einstein’s family.
Fellow physicist Leopold Infeld, a colleague of Einstein at Princeton from 1936 to 1938, wrote in his autobiography: “One of my colleagues in Princeton asked me, ‘If Einstein dislikes his fame and would like to increase his privacy, why does he…wear his hair long, a funny leather jacket, no socks, no suspenders, no ties?’ The answer is simple. The idea is to restrict his needs and, by this restriction, increase his freedom. We are slaves of millions of things….Einstein tried to reduce them to the absolute minimum. Long hair minimized the need for the barber. Socks can be done without. One leather jacket solves the coat problems for many years.”
Tracey Panek, historian for the $4.5 billion denim giant, said Einstein’s jacket “retains his scent and smells of smoke.”
Levi’s, founded by Bavarian immigrant Levi Strauss during the Gold Rush in 1853, has long mined its rich brand history as denim evolved from workwear to something to be worn to work in the modern office.
The brand sought to connect two innovators who were both known to favor uniforms that included Levi’s.
In a post on the brand’s web site, the company noted: “With everything else going on, the last thing on the minds of geniuses like Einstein, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg is, ‘What am I going to wear today?’ Instead, it was all about their uniforms of choice. Einstein had a penchant for gray suits and his sturdy Levi’s leather jacket. Apple cofounder Jobs famously rocked a black turtleneck and Levi’s jeans on the regular.”
Levi’s said Jobs owned 100 pairs of Levi’s 501 jeans.
The brand is also looking ahead to jackets for a new age.
In May, the brand and tech giant Google revealed the first style to come from their Project Jacquard partnership: a smart jacket that uses conductive yarn woven into the fabric and allows the wearer to control services such as music and maps. The electronics, which are stored in a removable smart tag, can be controlled with swipes and taps on the sleeve.