Be Woke: Saturday Night Live’s Denim Spoofs Through Time


SNL Levi's Wokes Ryan Gosling

This weekend’s Saturday Night Live season 43 premiere on NBC revived a longstanding tradition at SNL—making hay with denim brands. With heartthrob Ryan Gosling as host, SNL put together a digital short spoof commercial for Levi’s new line of denim: Levi’s Wokes.

Hilarious. As Indie Wire comments, it’s not a comment on Levi’s but on earnest brands striving to show how with it they are—”the sketch is specifically calling out the corporations that become so performative in their ‘wokeness’ to show that they totally get something, when they couldn’t possibly even begin to.”

jeans wokes

It’s also rich material (so to speak) for NBC’s long-running comedy show to spoof the fashion and culture of the day. For a brand, to be spoofed on SNL is an honor.

SNL has a history of jeans ads—here are a few of the show’s past denim fashion brand spoofs for comparison.

jeans 3 leg

Wokes was not SNL’s first take on the Levi’s brand. Sixteen years earlier the show gave us Levi’s Three-Legged Jeans.

SNL’s jean brand parodies are hardly new. Way back in 1980, the sketch comedy show featured Gilda Radner in an ad for “Jewess Jeans.”

jeans clovin hind

That same year, SNL spoofed the iconic Brooke Shields for Calvin Klein’s ad campaign with Clovin Hind Jeans.

jeans taylor
Three years later late comedy icon Joan Rivers was on SNL pretending to be Elizabeth Taylor for a, now questionable, Calvin Klein jeans ad. (This and the previous Clovin Hind jeans were the low points of SNL’s jeans brand spoofs.)

jeans pies

Also in 1983, a young, unknown SNL actress named Julia Louis-Dreyfus spoofed then big star Andie McDowell for Calvin Klein jeans (and Calvin Klein Pies).

jeans buckwheat
Eddie Murphy’s SNL character Buckwheat pitched his own line of jeans in 1983: Buckwheat Jeans.

jeans reagan

Ronald Reagan Jeans might actually have a consumer following today. They did not in 1985 when SNL created the idea.

“Exclusively at JC Penney” was where customers in 2003 could find “Mom Jeans” brand denim.

jeans wrangler

In 2010, NFL legend and Wrangler brand jeans spokesman Brett Favre got the SNL treatment.

“This tattoo, made me say ‘owie’.” In 2015, Calvin Klein’s Justin Bieber campaign got the SNL spoof treatment. (You can see it here.)

Meanwhile, an SNL-like Showtime sketch show The Underground had its own NSFW denim brand not unlike SNL’s Wrangler “Open Fly” jeans: Balls Out Jeans. It’s very NSFW and you can watch it here.

jeans bad idea

Levi’s Wokes is a good addition to the pantheon, but the almighty king of SNL denim brand spoofs came in 1990. It was so powerful that it became a commonly used slang term: Bad Idea Jeans.