Levi’s Duds – Years.

Half a century ago, all kids of my age wanted a pair of Levi’s. The sultry sounds of the Levi’s girl on this ad



which was a cut down version of this full-length song by Max Merritt and The Meteors (yes really, this was a legit song, penned by future ad-man Pat Aulton)



sent me into full pester mode. A pair of Levi’s from John Martin’s (sic) was always going to place the family budget under enormous strain. Fortunately, Elizabeth West was the home of the Australian made version of San Francisco miners duds and in those civic minded times, the local YMCA had a nice little earner as the outlet for any NQR Levi’s. These Seconds shops (there was one handily placed on Goodman Road, just south of Elizabeth Oval) did a roaring trade with families like ours.


A pair of Seconds was easy to spot, because they had the small Levi’s tag removed from their right bum pocket, but spotting the actual flaw in the product was nigh on impossible, such were the high quality standards of the day.


From memory, rocking up the the Second Year social in a pair of Seconds was not looked down on by the more affluent classmates (you know, the kids from Hillbank with dads who had good jobs as draftsmen at WRE and owned a genuine Dragster bought from the Town Centre bike shop and had two pairs of Adidas boots but would still pinch one of your screw-in sprigs if they needed to).


I won’t pretend that the rest of my jeans weren’t less socially acceptable. Colonial, Amco, Wrangler, even Embassy from Coles Variety during the particularly lean times, all graced my bottom half during my teen years.


There were a lot of cotton twill related songs in this era. Who could forget Marty Rhone’s execrable “Denim and Lace” (where for most of the song he sings “denim or lace”), (Lord) David Dundas’ “Jeans On” or Skyhooks’ pithy but missing the mark “Blue Jeans”. I wish I could.


As always, Bowie came to the rescue with his musically derivative paean to flue-related foreplay “Jean Genie”, which probably had more to do with Iggy Pop than Levi Strauss.


Once I was economically independent, I was jeanetically promiscuous. Cords, stone wash, stretch – they all got a go. There was a time that 501s were all the rage, but I eventually got jack of their stupid fly buttons. While I was in my slender years, there was a wide range of suitable styles that catered for my short, bandy legs. However, as the waistline thickened, I was forced to look elsewhere. 


Once in Melbourne, I became a regular customer of a seller of denim trouserware at the South Melbourne Market, who took his cues from Are You Being Served, never failing to convince me that the product would shrink/soften/expand/fade according to whatever meek objection that I would have when he flung open the flimsy curtain when I was in mid try-on. As an added bonus, there was a seamstress available across the aisle, who could run the hems up while we went off and grabbed some pasta, sweets, flowers etc. At least that’s my excuse for a decade of so of Lee jean wearing.


As my BMI continued to outpace my Super balance, the options were shrinking. I returned to Levi’s, but the only style that still fitted me where it counted (without having to chop a foot off each leg) was the style formerly known as 504. Although they were readily available, my waist/leg combination was only available in stonewash, which wouldn’t have been a problem if I was still living in Adelaide. And yes, I do know that you can buy stuff on-line, but let me tell you that Levi’s bought in the USA but made in Pakistan are sized completely differently from Levi’s bought in Australia but made in Jakarta.


As my fiscal freedom has lessened and I’ve been prepared to compromise clothically, I’ve discovered that Harris Scarfe stocks Amco jeans that not only fit, they are comfy and only $35 when on sale (which is regularly). With all of those stores, they’ll be around for ever. Finally, something’s gone my way.



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About Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt

Saw my first SANFL game in 1967 - Dogs v Peckers. Have only ever seen the Dogs win 1 final in the flesh (1972 1st Semi) Mediocre forward pocket for the AUFC Blacks (1982-89) Life member - Ormond Netball Club -That's me on the right


  1. “As my bmi continued to outpace my super balance”
    Gold Swish.

  2. “Denim and Lace”. I had forgotten that one. Not sure I wanted to be reminded. Don’t do a piece on “Sherbet”

  3. Shane Backx says

    I always preferred Lee Riders or after seeing the Movie Billy Jack, Wrangler denim Jackets & jeans before Levi’s. The old Lee Riders and Wrangler cant be bought these days sadly. They were on a parwith Levi.

  4. I think there was a second’s shop at Elizabeth Fields shops as well Swish. Near the library.
    Tagless Lev’s Californian’s was my school uniform pant for 5 years of high school (they came in grey).
    No posh kids at Craigmore

    Didn’t Corfu (Think that was the name) have a factory on Philip Highway as well?

  5. Great, Swish. So much resonates even the “only available in stonewash, which wouldn’t have been a problem if I was still living in Adelaide” line. True, but ouch.

    Don’t pin all your hopes on Harris Scarfe! Looking somewhat fragile. Lord David Dundas’ tune was a big hit with my cousins and I in the mid-seventies. A Countdown highlight.

  6. Joe De Petro says

    Ah the ubiquitous Levi’s.

    My Mum was an amateur seamstress so she made all my Levi’s for me . She was very talented and could look at an item of clothing and knock it off perfectly without using a pattern, which she couldn’t read anyway. If she had been a musician, she would have played “by ear” without being able to read a note.

    These jeans were exact replicas of the real thing, except for all the tags and rivets and distinctive stitching on the pockets. You know, all the stuff that made them Levi’s and not a pair of home made jeans that your Mum knocked together on a lazy weekend.

    Oh, there was one more difference. Apparently, I always tore them at the knees, what with all that running around and everything that I used to do, so she made them with removable knee patches. That way, when I tore them, which was inevitable, I only tore the patches and she would replace them from the leftover denim.

    Try buying a pair of those in Elizabeth Fields!

    Nice piece, Swish.

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    Does this make you a “Pants Man” Swish??

    “Blue Jeans” not one of Skyhooks’ best. But probably my favourite video clip of theirs.

  8. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Charlie. It might also say something about my super investment choices.

    6% – I’ll stick to Stars and Scandal then, shall I?

    Shane, I bet you had a few of those Wrangler shirts too.

    Culls – Californians, bring ’em back. I have a sneaky memory of Phil the Greek visiting the Corfu factory, for obvious reasons. None of their high waisted nutcrackers graced my bod.

    Mickey – so where will I buy my Hush Puppies?

    Joe – good to meet you last night. Were there other kids in a similar boat, clothing-wise?

    Luke – one of my many regrets is not popping down to Stax of Slax before they closed for good. Pants man Central.

  9. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Great stuff Swish. MIssed you at the shindig last night as I got in late.

    Currently enjoying my stretch chinos. Much better than the ‘high waisted nutcrackers’ from Faberge that I endured for the sake of being ‘fashionable’ in the mid-80s !
    FYI – There was no Corfu Jeans store in Corfu when I lived there.

  10. Joe De Petro says


    There may have been a couple of us Italian boys in that situation re the homemade clothes but the knee patches were unique to me.


  11. Colin Ritchie says

    Great yarn Swish. I have always been predominately a Levis man, certainly the trend when I was younger. My only problem was for jeans to fit me around the waist I’d have to cut off half the length of the legs. I’m short & slim which probably didn’t help. However American Levis which I have bought on each of my trips to New Orleans have a variety of leg lengths and I can select a length that doesn’t have to be shortened which is great. I hope they last until my next trip to New Orleans!

  12. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Phil. Which way did you dress, left, right or ouch?

    I wish that I was as fit as you Col. Thanks.

  13. Bell Bottom Blues eh Swish? Thanks Culls, I recall Corfu high waisted flared jeans were the Pants Du Jour of Kadina in the early 70’s. I have only worn jeans in winter since (suddenly) leaving the managerial classes 20 years ago. I think its a Seinfeld thing. Harms took me to one of his mates toffy golf clubs and I wore my “best jeans”. Refused entry and had to pick up an $80 pair of dark blue pin cords from the sale table. Its what golf professionals are reduced to in order to make a living. The Avenging Eagle is constantly buying alternatives that are returned to seller. I have a suit commonly referred to as my “laying out pants”.

  14. Thanks Swish. Growing in the West, I often passed the Levi’s factory on my way the town cenna. I reckon half the girls I went to school with worked there at some point. Culls there was indeed a seconds shop in the Fields – we were regular patrons – Californians in the mid and late 70s, of course. Flared cords too. Looked good with desert boots. Or those stupid shoes that were briefly popular that were made of foam – kyaks (?) or Ciaks or something. Docs later with the 501s (still wearing both!). I too had Lees for a while in the mid 70s – there’s even a song about it by the Go-Betweens: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBJYP_nfMmg

  15. Our school uniform included grey pants so I would only go to school in a pair of light grey Levi Californians. Every January Mum would pack us in the car and drive to Goodman Rd. It didn’t matter that the tag was missing due to them being seconds as tags didn’t last long at Croydon High. Imposed humility is a great leveller.

    After school I would take off my blue school jumper and put on my Golden Breed long sleeve multi coloured top. Ah, the 70s.

    PS. I’m wearing a pair of 501s to work today.

  16. Bonus points for the title, Swish. The prevailing style and tightness of jeans in my youth have made me a lifelong abstainer of denim since I’ve made my own purchasing decisions. While I’m old man ranting, I also don’t get why young people think I should see their ankles…

  17. Love it Swish.

    These days I’m happily a Levis guy with a regular order as it’s the infernal shoes-off-old-jeans-off-new-jeans-on-wonder-about-putting-shoes-on-put-shoes-on-wonder-more-view-in-a-mirror-set-too-close-for-the-purpose-wonder-evaluate-wonder-wonder-some-more-shoes off-reevaluate-new-jeans-off-old-jeans-on palava that saps the very life from my being.
    I wish I could remember what that regular order is.

    As I age the more denim I seem to inhabit. Jeans, yes. But jackets too, now. Jeantrifying.
    Possibly a victim of geography.

  18. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    PB – “best jeans” is surely an oxymoron

    Rabs – my Ciaks were a big hit at the Highways, especially my cord ones. Great get with the GoBs

    Dan – so people really travelled north for reasons other than away games at the Ponderosa?

    Dave – thanks for noticing (as did Mickey online). More effort went into the title than the body.

    E.r – jeantrifying. Well played

    Well, I’ve done t-shirts and I’ve done jeans. What’s next? Does anyone remember Jockettes?

  19. Snowy from Busso says

    Loved jockettes in the seventies, had a female friend who also liked wearing them.Lee jeans with the button up fly were the preferred jeans,but can anyone remember Leisuremaster, and combcaddys by Keyman?

  20. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Keyman Snowy. I hadn’t thought of them in years, hadn’t realised that they were a Yakka brand. Pretty sure I had a pair at some stage, but Leisuremaster was a brand that, if worn at my school, might have had you kicked out of the EHS Roxy Music Appreciation Society. Thanks for those reminders.

    Also, check out these Keyman footy patches from the 60s


  21. Snowy from Busso says

    Swish,as a kid I even had a pair of jeans that came with a little branding iron.The jeans had a blank white tag above the back pocket like a Lee or Levi tag, and Dad would brand your name on the tag.

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