When I traveled to Moscow in 1986, I brought 10 pairs of Levi’s 501s in my bag. I was a 17-year-old gymnast, the reigning national champion, and I was going to the Soviet Union to compete in the Goodwill Games, a rogue Olympics-level competition orchestrated by CNN founder Ted Turner while the Soviet Union and the United States were boycotting each other.
The jeans were for bartering lycra: the Russians’ leotards represented tautness, prestige, discipline. But they clamored for my denim and all that it represented: American ruggedness, freedom, individualism.
I loved wearing Levi’s; I’d worn them as long as I could remember. But if you had told me back then that I’d one day become the president of the brand, I would’ve never believed you. If you told me that after achieving all that, after spending almost my entire career at one company, that I would resign from it, I’d think you were really crazy…
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