Levi’s Sell in Secret Code

Levis Bush

“How do I look in black stretch?”

If you are a regular guy and not a fashion-obsessed one, and you decide it’s time for a pair of new Levi’s, get ready for some potential confusion.  Actually, even if you are among the clothes-concerned, prepare for perplexity.  A visit to the Levi’s website (or even the Macy’s one, which offers fewer choices but sufficient bewilderment) introduces you to a Kafkaesque, sartorial Babel where colors have names like “anodized anthracite” and distinctions seem to have no difference.  After reviewing the selection of Levi’s 511s on the company’s website, Susan Pantzaroff, Professor of Marketing at Northern Indiana Normal School and Business Institute, concluded:  “Levi’s seems to be employing a cutting edge marketing technique called ‘Confuse the Customer.’  It’s quite popular in the mattress industry.  But within the academic community, the jury is still out on whether it’s a good strategy.  We need to run more regressions on it.  But my first question to Levi’s would be, ‘Where’d you come up with a color called Shadow Bull Denim?’” 

The color choices for 511s on the Levi’s website could keep an obsessive compulsive busy for the better part of a month; there are 27 different shades.  Most are either some variation of blue-black or some variation of faded blue.  “These color names are about as helpful as serial numbers,” said Professor Pantzaroff.  Some of the more confusing options are below:


  • Muse (website description: “…a dark indigo finish”)
  • Clean Dark (no mention of whether they’re blue or black, just the poetic “…denim treated in a soft garment rinse”)
  • Rigid Dragon (“…blue-black denim…”)

Variations of Faded Blue

  • Damaged Stone
  • Black Stone (actually blue in color, do you trust what’s in print or your own damn eyes?)
  • Reset (a very faded blue)
  • Carry On (might be Black Stone with the addition of creases at top of legs)
  • Blue Stone (the model’s pose seems to be the only difference between this entry and Reset)
  • Mogwai (it’s possibly a foreign word, but it’s also the name of a Scottish, post-rock band; “stretch heavyweight (12 oz.) denim treated in a soft garment rinse,” the verbatim description also applies to Carry On, which looks the same unless the faded patch locations are in places unique to each choice)
  • Sequoia (an easier one- a type of dark blue)
  • Wood Acre (looks just like Mogwai, which looks like Carry On, here with dirty knees and heavier creases)
  • Throttle (almost identical to the simply-named Blue below)
  • Marin (different from Carry On, which looks like both Mogwai and Wood Acre, by about two or three spins in the washer)
  • Blue (it is actually blue, so clearly the name is a mistake, almost indistinguishable from Throttle)

If you think that the old fashioned way, i.e., trying them on in an actual store, is your best route, for God’s sake, be careful.  This move can actually propel you deeper into the jeans vortex because Macy’s (ticker M) has colors, like the ridiculously-dubbed “Rinsed Playa,” that aren’t shown on the Levi’s website.  And don’t do what Mark Van Ark of NYC did earlier this week at the Macy’s Columbus Day Sale.  Thinking he’d take advantage of the store’s promotion on Levi’s, he stopped by the Herald Square location on his lunch break.  15 minutes later, bug-eyed from his fight against the stifling crowd, completely incapable of distinguishing the colors in the store’s unhelpful artificial light (the sale tags don’t include Levi’s’ kooky color names), and not thinking clearly, he took a pair of 511s outside to 7th Avenue to see them in real daylight, which is your only genuine chance of figuring out what color they are before you buy them.  Once outdoors, having figured out that they were the right color, he breathed a sigh of relief and was promptly arrested for shoplifting.

If you decide the whole task is simply overwhelming and you head to Wal-Mart (ticker WMT) for a pair of Wrangler’s ($16.77 in five easy-to-understand colors), no one will be able to blame you.



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