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Mexico Trade 1990 Levi’s 501 Jeans in Exchange For Heroin

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(Credit: Don Arnold/WireImage) SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 30: Historian Lynn Downey holds up the oldest pair of 501 jeans in the world, named XX and dating back to 1879, at a Levi's event to showcase the world's oldest pair of jeans at Bondi Beach on November 30, 2011 in Sydney, Australia.Levi's Showcase World's Oldest Jeans
February 1
1:59 AM 2016

In the '90s, Levi's 501 jeans were so popular not only in the US market, but also all over the world. In Mexico, these classic jeans were very precious that people traded them for heroin.

With the popularity of Levi's 501 jeans worldwide, the demands of these apparels were high. However, the products could not reach all regions easily. This had made the Levi's 501 jeans fans who were desperate of not getting the goods did some unpleasant actions at that time, according to MSN.

A new book "Dreamland" written by Sam Quinones mentioned that Levi's 501 jeans were so valuable that they worth very close to actual money in 1990s in Mexico. The book itself tells about the history of opioid trade in America.

Based on the book, two pairs of the famous apparels were the same as the price of one "balloon" of heroin. A single balloon means an un-inflated balloon used to keep the heroin inside. It eased the drug sellers to carry and sell heroin, and at that time, Mexican dealers accepted Levi's 501 jeans as the payment.

The jeans had a deep meaning for the Mexicans. They considered them as symbols of success and wealth. Once dealers came back to their hometowns wearing Levi's 501 jeans, people would assume that they had become rich and had American relationships. The jeans were also popular for their durability in the 1990s, and the Mexican dealers were happy to wear them for their rough business. It then led them to continue their dealing lifestyle as their families wanted more jeans after they got used to receive the products.

The Atlantic stated, "The story behind why the pants were so valued explains much about foreign heroin dealers' motivation for their work." The writer of the book called the jeans as the "gold standard" for Mexican men achievements, since the apparels were not cheap and hard to get.

James Sullivan, author of Jeans: A Cultural History of an American Icon, also explained how jeans had affected people in the past. He said, "Since World War II ended, jeans have been recognized as symbolic of Western ideals around the world." He added, "In the 70s, it was common knowledge among American backpacking kids doing European travels that if you brought an extra pair of blue jeans, you could sell them to kids behind the Iron Curtain who were desperate to get them."

As mentioned in Goodread, besides Dreamland, Sam Quinones has published 2 other books; True Tales from Another Mexico: The Lynch Mob, the Popsicle Kings, Chalino and the Bronx, published in 2001, and Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream: True Tales of Mexican Migration, published in 2007.

Dreamland: the True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic tells about twin tales of drug market in the 21st Century. It describes that heroin once only found in the urban environments along the East Coast. Heroin was then smuggled into the United States by Colombian drug Cartels, until it is everywhere now in the heartland of America. Levi's 501 jeans were important parts of this heroin journey.       

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