Albert Einstein’s brown leather Levi’s ‘Cossack’ jacket has been auctioned off along with a few of his other worldly possessions by Christie’s auction house in London. Since Einstein is hardly known for his fashion sense, the auctioneers only estimated the jacket which is descended in a direct line from Albert Einstein’s family to the present owner to go for $52,280 to $78,420. However, the jacket was acquired by Levi Strauss & Co. for the value of $146,744.
The garment was purchased by Einstein when he was becoming a US citizen in the mid-1930s and was worn by him regularly during the period as he was becoming an “official” American. Einstein was often photographed in the jacket, with some of the most famous images including a photo by Lotte Jacobi in 1938 and a cover of TIME magazine in April of the same year.
Einstein is said to have worn the jacket so often that a colleague at Princeton in the years 1936-38, Leopold Infeld, said in his autobiography, “One of my colleagues in Princeton asked me, ‘If Einstein dislikes his fame and would like to increase his privacy, why does he … wear his hair long, a funny leather jacket, no socks, no suspenders, no ties?’
The answer is simple. The idea is to restrict his needs and, by this restriction, increase his freedom. We are slaves of millions of things … Einstein tried to reduce them to the absolute minimum. Long hair minimized the need for the barber. Socks can be done without. One leather jacket solves the coat problems for many years.”
In 1999, TIME named Albert Einstein the Person of the Century. In the same issue Levi’s® 501® jeans were named the fashion item of the 20th century.