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The inventor of blue jeans just made a huge comeback

Aarthi Swaminathan
Finance Writer


Levi Strauss ( LEVI ) has unleashed a fashion revolution through over the last century, from bell bottoms to skinny jeans, making denim a staple in consumers’ wardrobes around the world.

After years of being privately held, the 165-year-old American icon ( LEVI ) is now facing a renaissance of sorts — at least among investors — after it re-listed on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday.

The stock shot up by more than 36% after it started trading. (The stock closed down around 1.3% at the close on Friday.)

“There is a long runway for growth,” Levi CFO Harmit Singh, who was head-to-toe in company merchandise, told Yahoo Finance’s On The Move (video above). “We are leading trends, we are pioneering technology … and we’re just getting started.”

Levi, the inventor of clue jeans, made a huge comeback. (Photo: Getty)

While the market pounced on the opportunity, some investors are waiting to see more details about how the business is evolving.

"We're all sitting around here asking, 'Where's the growth?'" Monetta Fund Portfolio Manager Robert Bacarella told Reuters . "If they can come out with a plan to show that they can grow market share and not be as dependent on retail stores then it becomes a lot more interesting."

Comeback kid

The storied history of the company begins on the west coast.

The company was founded in 1853 by Levi Strauss, who was born in modern day Germany (then Bavaria). Strauss opened a store in the city to sell pants to miners during the California Gold Rush.

Alongside a partner, Strauss obtained a patent for the blue jean in 1873. The company first went public in 1971.

Levi Strauss (born Loeb Strauss), 'Inventor' of Blue Jeans, Industrialist, Germany / USA - around 1850. (Photo: ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

In 1985, Strauss’ descendants — the Haas family — decided to take the company private in a $1.6 billion leveraged buyout.

CEO and President Chip Bergh, who was hired in 2011, is widely cited as one of the key executives who has turned the company around.

“When I got the call for Levi’s … my first reaction was ‘wow,’ here’s this amazing iconic brand which I grew up in,” Bergh said in an interview last year . “When I started doing homework on the company… here you had this incredible iconic brand ... and yet a company that had really faltered for more than a decade.”

He added: “I saw this as an opportunity to leave a legacy.”

— Emily McCormick contributed to this post.

Aarthi is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami .

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