The Levi’s 501 jeans are as classic as they come, with a following not only in the US, but in the rest of the world as well.
Unfortunately, outside of the US, the jeans are not so easy to come by. That’s lead to some unsavoury behaviour from desperate 501 fans in the past.
According to Sam Quinones’ new book “Dreamland”, which covers the history of America’s opioid trade, in 1990s Mexico the 501 jeans were valued almost as much as actual money, as noted by the Atlantic.
The jeans were so valuable, according to the book, that two pairs of Levi’s were valued as much as a single “balloon” of heroin — which is literally heroin stored inside an un-inflated balloon so that it would be easier to carry and sell — and Mexican dealers would accept the jeans as payment.
When the dealers returned to their rural towns wearing the 501s, the jeans were considered a tell-tale sign that they had truly made it. If you wore them, people would assume you were wealthy and had American connections. They are also notably durable, and could stand up to the rough life of a heroin dealer in Mexico in the ’90s.
And once the dealers started bringing the jeans back to their families, they soon became accustomed to receiving the product, forcing the dealers to continue their dealing lifestyle.