5 Vintage-Wash Jeans You Should Try

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It seems like spring makes me want to reevaluate the blue jeans in my closet. Every year. I typically wear black jeans the majority of the time, but it’s a nice update to the wardrobe to have a gorgeous washed blue for this season. This year I’m all about finding the perfect vintage wash that looks authentic and not forced, if that makes sense. That gorgeous vintage blue that makes me oh so nostalgic…that is what is in my head.

I will tell you many jeans in this category look so different online than they do in person. It seems like they typically look more faded online than in real life, so be aware of that. I tried this Jcrew pair (it’s what prompted this search but of course I forgot to snap a pic) and was sorely disappointed in the wash in person, even though the fit was cute and flattering. They look great on Shana in this post, they’re just a different wash than I have stuck in my brain that I want.

Best Booty

AG Isabelle High Rise Straight Crop

AG Isabelle High Rise Straight Crop – These are super cute. The fit is insanely great and as it goes for most AG jeans, so is the booty. These are a little more vintage denim than stretchy denim so they’re a little tight in the hips, but you can tell they would break in beautifully. LOVE. If I weren’t so obsessed with the perfect vintage wash that is in my head I’d have kept this pair. I’d crop them off a little bit more to get the perfect ankle length and that raw hem that I love, but otherwise, these are great. Wearing my typical size, 27.

Lowest Priced

Gap Cone Denim Super High Rise Straight Jeans

Gap Cone Denim Super High Rise Straight Jeans – Let me say I’m impressed with these. Gap has updated their denim lately and it’s definitely worth a try. These have that nice vintage wash that looks more authentic than some. This straight leg pair is great with heels or ankle boots. I have them tucked under to the length I would chop them to if I had kept them because full length straight jeans are oh so bad. Wearing my typical size here and they seem like they’ll relax just a bit to fit, like the Levi’s. Wearing size 27.

Comfiest & Best Crop

Madewell Slim Boyjean

Madewell Slim Boyjean One Size Down (26) – Oh you know my love for Madewell jeans. These did not disappoint. I have last year’s version of this jean and it’s one of my favorites to wear with the higher ankle boots. This is the regular length. I’m 5″4′ so taller mamas definitely go for the tall unless you want a short crop. If you’re not up for working to break in your jeans, but want a vintage look, go for these. For sure. The rise on these is SO comfy. You could easily wear them all day. LOVE.

Madewell Slim Boyjean Typical Size (27) – These are way less flattering. You can see the crotch is weird and the butt is too big. Definitely try different sizes in jeans. So worth it!

Best Wash

Levi’s 501 Skinny in Old Hangouts

Levi’s 501 Skinny in Old Hangouts – These jeans. They take me back to high school and college when my main jean goal was to find that perfect vintage wash. Well, it’s still done by Levi’s, but they do take some breaking in, just like they did back then. I’m wearing my typical size 27 and they are tight. Like. Tight. But even after wearing them for just half a day they are better. Julieta swears they get even better with time. If you’re SUPER picky about the wash like me, these are amazing. They’re worth the work. If you’re not up for that, like I said, go for the Madewell’s.

True Straight Leg

AG Sloan Vintage Straight Leg Crop 

AG Sloan Vintage Straight Leg Crop – This is a case of the wash looking quite different than it did online. I like the fit and distressing on these, but they’re so much darker in real life than on the site. Meh. Annoying. But if you’re looking for this style and distressing they are a solid choice. They’re the quality you’d expect from AG.

Take Away

So, I went with the Levi’s for my updated spring jean. They look surprisingly fabulous cuffed with an ankle boot. You can see them with my new fave ankle boots over on @themomedit IG. They’re like a new relationship in a way, since I have to think about putting them on from time to time and breaking them in. Hahaha. I’m such a denim fanatic that I’m ok with this and if you think I’m a little nuts it’s fine. I can take it. By the way, I’m also wearing my favorite v neck tee above, from Madewell, surprise surprise. But these are slightly oversized and oh so soft. Wearing a Small here. I have it in a heathered navy and will be adding all the colors as I can. SO good.

Are there any favorite jeans you’ve found with that oh-so-perfect-vintage wash? It’s tricky to replicate without the jeans actually being vintage. I think the denim with stretch just doesn’t seem to quite get there, though some are so close. If you’ve found some we’d love to hear about them!



Be sure to follow me on Instagram @elletrain to see daily outfits, what I’m currently whipping up in the kitchen, and of course, Sienna’s dance moves.


About Author

Meet Laura! She's a reader turned contributor and we couldn't be happier to have her as part of the team. Her fun, creative style is, as she says, "somewhere between Madewell and Joan Jett" (YES.) and she delivers some mean dressing room selfies so keep an eye out for those. Fun fact? She loves getting her haircut and we love to see what she has up her sleeve.  

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  1. Do you find that jeans with holes in the knees continue use to tear after you buy them and finally you end up with giant gaping holes with big white knees sticking through? Or is it just me?

    • Yes! This keeps me from buying those oh so cool looking holey jeans, because I know they look perfect when trying on, and then you bend down once and RIIIIP. And it keeps happening. I wish a designer could come up with a solution!

      • Does TME have a solution for this ripped knee dilemma?? That would be a super helpful tutorial- please consider! I have a few pairs of ripped knees that seem to have gone too far and they end up sitting in my drawer…a tutorial for those of us who aren’t handy with a sewing machine…
        Love the look. Thanks for a thorough review Laura!

      • I had a pair that tore a hole in a weird place, so I actually just patched them using a a slightly darker pair of jeans (that were actually some my kid grew out of). Super quick and easy to do, and it looks really cute too. I blogged it, but it’s kinda rude to share a blog post on another blog, but if you click through on me you can find it pretty easily. =)

        • That’s helpful Joules- thanks. But what if you want to keep some holes (not patched), but you just don’t want them to spread? Or if they’ve ripped too far and you want to close it back to a smaller hole? Does that make sense? I know I can find many answers to this on the internet (I’ve tried) but I’m hoping TME has some solutions because I trust you guys so much! And you always know how to do it in a fashionable way 😉

        • Joules – I do the same thing (back-patch with an old pair of jeans), I actually have 2 old pairs of jeans I keep just so I can cut them up and use them for patches if necessary. I also have been known to reinforce the edges of a hole so they don’t become bigger (without adding backing).

  2. Elizabeth Rafter on

    Alex, yes! When the hole is directly over the knee, it just continues to rip and makes me crazy! You are not alone. Apparently, I think I need some lighter wash jeans for springtime. I’ve just ordered two pairs of Levi’s and I’m pretty happy with both of them. This pair seems vintage to me, but I think it’s more because they look exactly like the pair I got for Christmas in 1989 or 1990 (or somewhere right around that time).


    The other pair I got is a really light blue skinny pair. I’m happy with both pairs and you can’t beat the price! Levi’s seems to have pretty frequent sales and I was able to get both pairs for less than $90!

  3. Do you have troubles with your Madwell shirts getting little holes in them? I’ve followed the directions obsessively but have noticed they all come out of the wash with small holes!

    • I only wear Madewell tees…. love them! I probably have 20 and no problems with holes. I don’t wash them with zippered sweat jacket type items tho. And dry on low!

  4. These washes are terrific- super spring vibes across the board. Would love to see non-ripped jeans featured on the site for us non-ripped jean people.

  5. I tried on the Madewell skinny boyfriend jeans and loved the wash and liked the view from the front and back, but could not get past the unflattering side view! I feel like from that angle, this style added 5-10lbs. Anyone else have that issue?

  6. Has anyone cracked the code on Levi’s in terms of content? On the 721 jeans, there are a few dozen washes and each has a different content of denim vs stretch (for example, 93% Cotton, 5% Elastomultiester, 2% Elastane Stretch selvedge denim, or 94% Cotton, 5% Polyester, 1% Elastane or even 99% Cotton, 1% Elastane). What’s the difference?

    • One could write pages on this, but here’s a cliffnotes version – cotton and poly will not stretch, so the higher the content on those, the stiffer/sturdier the feel. Usually poly is to maintain color, and you’ll see it mostly in black denim, but sometimes it is for handfeel/drape, and appears in dark rinses or white denim. The Elastane/Lycra will provide stretch, and varies on different base fabrics, because you can’t achieve all finishes on the same fabric. So a jean with 1% Elastane will be much less stretchy than 4% Elastane. Cotton-rich denim will break in more, but higher stretch (good quality) denim will hold more shape as you wear it. Selvedge refers to the way the edges of the denim are finished, so is more about styling than fit. Hope that helps!

      (from a former Levi’s denim merchant)

  7. Inspired by these looks I checked out Universal Threads at Target today. I found a great fitting pair that was a little darker than I wanted but couldn’t beat the price (and no holes). Worth a try…I had success with the high waist skinny crop but needed to size down.

  8. There are two links of the Madewell jeans that go to the same pair. Is this on purpose? You say one is less flattering but they are the same.

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