Jake Gyllenhaal’s jeans from Brokeback Mountain are one of the highlights of an exhibition looking at the fusion between gay men and a particular brand of clothing – Levi Strauss.

Mounted onto a shop mannequin, the jeans look rather limp and uninspirin, to be honest – more Marks and Spencers than Brokeback Mountain – but at least they are the authentic item. Elsewhere, you might want to get close to Freddy Murceury’s posterior in the jeans he wore in the 1980s, or see the jeans worn by the assassinated politician Harvey Milk.

Interestingly, for an exhibition about clothes made by a company famous for its trousers, most of the items on display are less bottom and more top – with several examples of customised jackets, one of which is so heavily customised that you can barely see the denim fabric underneath.

A jacket designed by Elton John in 1994 and surrounded by his trademark sunglasses is worth peering closely at — the buttons have an image of Beethoven on them.

There are some quite good display signs that explain the importance of this or that object, and as the collection is on loan from the Levi Strauss company archive, there’s a long, slightly hagiographic timeline of how the company has supported LGBTQI+ people over the decades.

It’s a modest exhibition, with about twenty items on show, but it is free to visit and will likely appeal to fashion fans as much as people interested in how a corporate giant decided to embrace its gay customer base rather than decide to be intolerant of them.

There’s nothing about the exhibition on their website, but I’ve been told that the exhibition will close on Friday 13th October. Some of the items will then move to the main gallery space for a couple of months before returning to the company archives in San Francisco.

The exhibition, From the Levi’s Archives: Icons in Denim – A Queer Perspective is at Queer Britain in King’s Cross until 13th October and is free to visit.

The gallery is open Wed-Sun from 12pm to 6pm, closed on Mon and Tues. Note that the exhibition is to the left as you go in, through the shop, and not in the main exhibition area.


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