Levi's Ribcage Ads Are a Millennial Remembrance of Things Past

I think I love you

For all the faults and crap hairstyles of the '90s, it was a more comfortable time, sartorially speaking. Thus, we are pleased to announce that baggy jeans—that great denim lynchpin of the Decade That Delivered!—have finally returned in force, mostly as the par excellence manifestation of the high-waisted pant.

These days, Levi's calls them "Ribcage jeans." 

This tiny video is a Levi's x Mad collab. "Mad" is short for Madame Figaro, the women's-rag version of French news publication Le Figaro. It's with small, local co-productions like this that Levi's is promoting the Ribcage line.

Here's another film by Natalie Winter, featuring models Neema Kayitesi and Etain Leung. It shares the rhythm, nostalgic edges and wordless, whimsical movements of the Mad piece. (Clearly somebody's made a style bible!)

Look at that—baggy jeans in all their glory. Jeans with belts! Jeans that flood past your ankles! Jeans for standing splits, for twisting balletically! Jeans for lying in grass, pantlegs splayed out like the hems of gowns!

A Levi's ad is always a shuttle through the past, even when it's not. The so-called "Ribcage jean" doesn't live only in our memory but in the archives of the country's oldest jeans manufacturer as well, and this is something that can be felt.

We're reminded of "Elevator," that painfully '90s ad for what Levi's then called Wide Leg jeans ("It's wiiiiiide open"). With breathtaking timing, it rockets into whiplash-inducing fantasy and back again in less than 30 seconds. Today it's problematic—hetero-centric and white, a throwback to a time when everyone onscreen was tall, blond-adjacent and thin; tick all the boxes you want. 

Still, reductive nostalgia remains our shared nostalgia, and it's easier to enjoy in hindsight when you can see that Levi's actually has diversified while maintaining that sense of "we've been here before," without any anxiety at all.

This is probably Levi's most charming quality. The brand was born in 1853; it is so old that it's seen whole generations of jeans-wearers come and go, never mind style cycles. Unlike the younger brands of its ilk, it seems to always know that having a past doesn't necessarily date you. 

Maybe this is especially appealing as millennials age out of public interest; we hark back more and more, and everything in our media reflects that. (Punky Brewster is returning! You'd be hard-pressed to pander more flagrantly to the opiate we're most sensitive to.)

This is everything I think about when watching the Ribcage videos. They don't try hard to be trendy, though the diverse faces and need-no-man wildness are cues of where we are in time. Otherwise, they effortlessly play with our sense of memory—cuts revisited from 20 years ago, mixed with tucked-in T-shirts and textures like corduroy. And, in the case of Winter's work, the feeling of a home-video shoot that wasn't all that recent.

Hello, old friends. Glad to see you again.

Profile picture for user Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is a founding contributor to Muse. She is also the co-founder of esports agency Hurrah.gg, and co-author of Generation Creation.

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