What Chrome Hearts Levi's Have in Common With Apple
These high-end aftermarket jeans have become the ultimate flex.
“Nothing here’s made; everything’s built,” says Chrome Hearts founder Richard Stark in a 2018 Hypebeast profile.
Established in 1988 by Stark and his then-partner Richard Bowman, a leather manufacturer, the Chrome Hearts success story reads like the Steve Jobs/Steve Wozniak “start-up built in a garage” model, with the eventual split of the partners (Stark bought out Bowman), and the small business becoming an independent success. Except instead of high-tech computers, Chrome Hearts is built on high-quality luxury goods with a strong foundation in outlaw biker culture, rock-and-roll, and quintessential Los Angeles opulence.
In the early days of the brand, Richard Stark met his now-wife Laurie Lynn Stark, a designer who once made swimsuits from leather she’d buy from him. Chrome Hearts remains firmly a family business, with their daughter Jessie Jo Stark serving as the company’s vice president, and her younger twin siblings Frankie Belle and Kristian already helping court high-profile collaborators like Bella Hadid.
It’d be easy to write off the house the Stark family built as a jewelry company or purveyor of high-end apparel. But that would only be scratching the surface. It’d be easier to say what Chrome Hearts hasn’t made yet. Frankly speaking, Richard Stark’s overarching vision for the company is that eventually, it will have made everything.
“Fuckin’ label it whatever you want. I just call Chrome Hearts, ‘Chrome Hearts,’” says Stark to Hypebeast. “If you have to tell somebody what you are — you aren’t.”
That’s part of the Chrome Hearts charm and lasting luxury appeal, it makes everything from plungers, Rick Owens Geobaskets, butcher’s knives, and bicycle tire valve caps. And it makes them at the highest possible level with an uncompromising quality.
So when you look at a pair of vintage Levi’s 501 or 505 jeans remade in the signature Chrome Hearts way, the exorbitant asking price doesn’t just include the denim, but factors in how all the hardware is replaced and reconstructed with Chrome Hearts sterling silver.
Everything from the button fly, the rivets, and even a tab on the back pocket elevates the otherwise classic denim, the sort of opulent overkill you’d get from putting truffle butter on a perfect stack of pancakes and syrup.
The leather crosses are the icing on the cake, channeling Chrome Hearts’ heritage in biker and rock-and-roll culture while functioning as a recognizable status symbol from afar, letting other CH enthusiasts know you’re in the club.
So it’s no surprise that Drake would include a few pairs of the flex-worthy denim as part of his recent collaboration with the Los Angeles luxury label. Even though most of the attention was given to the incredibly stunning one-of-one Rolls Royce Cullinan, the extremely limited capsule collection also included several exclusive hoodie colorways and several pairs of overdyed light blue Chrome Hearts 501s.
Once again using authentic vintage Levi’s jeans, the details setting this particular collaboration apart from its contemporaries are the uniform cornflower blue wash, and corresponding robin’s egg blue leather cross patches. If the $10,500 selling prices on Grailed are to be believed, these have already become a collector’s item.
It’s telling that instead of making their denim from the fabric up, Chrome Hearts opts to use vintage pairs of Levi’s. They could easily make their own jeans the same way they manufacture their own T-shirts, hoodies, and trucker caps, but it’s a subtle acknowledgement of the permanent legacy of the 501.
Like the original spirit of brand collaborations —two entities coming together to create something that either couldn’t do by themselves— the customized Chrome Hearts x Levi’s jeans are greater than the sum of its parts. The redone hardware and leather patches elevate the worn-in dungarees, and because they’re vintage, no two pairs can ever be exactly alike. Isn’t that kind of exclusivity what luxury’s about?
Someday I’ll have a pair