LEVI'S GETS THE BLUES

THE ONCE-COOL BRAND IS OUT OF STEP WITH YOUNG BUYERS. SOME OF ITS U.S. WORKERS PAY THE PRICE

By the time half a million hippies danced button fly to button fly at Woodstock 28 years ago, the miners' blue jeans first made by Levi Strauss in 1873 had been adopted as the uniform for class rebellion. But the enduring, red-tagged faded blues have recently earned another reputation. "My mom wears Levi's," says Hannah Gasner, 15, a Manhattan high school sophomore, uttering the words that youth marketers dread. "I think about them as the first jeans invented. Levi's are reliable."

In the cutting-edge world of blue jeans, reliable just doesn't cut it. While Levi's has remained a wardrobe fixture, its...

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