Your Guide to Levi’s 501 Jeans (See Them On, Too!)

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Levi’s has had my heart for a long time. If you follow me on Instagram (@theunbosom) I’m often wearing Levi’s jeans. They can be my very loved 721 Skinny’s, my ultra high-waisted Mile Long fit or my Straight -Leg Wedgie fit. I’m always in them. Whenever I want to feel cool and/or stylish I will get those out. I wear them at home, to run errands, for date night. They are always perfect depending on what I pair them with.

This year I wanted to add a very classic pair to my collection: the 501! But, I wanted them a little bit more updated: enter the 501 Skinny, which is the same thing as the 501 but just a little slimmer on the legs. They are not actually skinny, they are more of a fitted straight leg, which in my opinion is AMAZING.

After looking for the right pair, I came across different washes and price points and I got really intrigued when I saw two very similar styles. One for under $100 and the other for over $150. Without blinking I ordered both because I wanted to see by myself what the difference was. So, here I’m going to compare the 501 skinny jeans I could find in my size.

Levi’s 501 Jeans Compared

Why the price difference? $98 vs. $168

When I took both pairs out the first thing I noticed was this little thing on the inside of the waistline. It says “White Oak” on the $168 pair, not on the $98 one. I quickly googled and this is what I got:

  • ‘White Oak’ means the denim was made in the USA in the White Oak Cone Mills, which is (or was because unfortunately stopped operations late last year) the oldest denim manufacturer. It was the one that practically started Levi’s back in 1915. Even though they produced all kinds of denim the on they were famous for was the “selvedge”
  • Selvedge denim is manufactured in special looms called shuttle looms. They make the fabric to come with an instant “self edge” hence the name “selvedge denim.” While selvedge denim is not necessarily better than regular denim, the denim is usually tightly woven which makes it more durable, they also fade beautifully and when cuffed the edge looks amazing. The edge never frays.

Selvedge (Top) vs. Regular Denim (Bottom)

Selvedge Vs Regular Denim

  • If you love White Oak’s produced selvedge denim, it’s time to stock up. There are not many plants in the world that produce this denim, let alone in the way it was produced in this plant. It was really sad for me to know it had been the only plant that was able to stay in business despite the fashion industry leaning towards fabrics produced abroad and in more cost efficient looms. Unfortunately the amount of people who knew of premium denim and were willing to pay the cost for “American Made” and a premium product wasn’t enough to keep them open. All this to say that selvedge denim price is going to go up while denim brands figure out what to do. I know Japan has some shuttle looms, so let’s see what happens.

Left: Selvedge I Right: Regular

All the 501 Skinnies

Now let’s get into all the pairs I ordered and tried.

Please note: All of them except for one are 100% cotton. At first they are tight on hips and legs and I don’t recommend sizing up unless you want a baggy fit. They need a break-in period or process. So keep in mind that the following pics are not how they actually fit once you’ve worn them for some time. At the end I will add the pics of one pair I’ve had for over two years and are now soft and broken in. I will also chose a pair, break it in and take a new pic for comparison purposes.

I’ll also clarify which pair is made with selvedge denim, although you will know from the price.

501 Skinny Old Hangouts $98

501 Skinny Old Hangouts $98 – This is the same pair Laura chose when she was looking for her perfect vintage pair. The wash is amazing. I’m wearing a size 25 which is my regular size. It feels tight on hips, butt and upper legs. 

A Size Up..

501 Skinny Old Hangouts $98 – This is how they look at first. They get looser with every wear so keep that in mind.

501 Skinny Selvedge (Ocean Pacific Blue) $160

501 Skinny Selvedge (Ocean Pacific Blue) $160 – Pretty similar right? The distressing is very similar except for some stitches that help to keep it together. I’m wearing exact same size and they fit very similarly. The main difference is the type of denim. You can find this one on sale for way under $100 from size 28 up here.

501 Skinny Selvedge (Before Dawn) $148

501 Skinny Selvedge (Before Dawn) $148 – My favorite pair and the one I chose mainly because it wasn’t super distressed. When I’m going to spend this kind on money I don’t really want them to have holes in them. In a few years I may make some, but for now I’m not very much into rips in my jeans. Wearing size 25.

 501 Skinny Selvedge (Pop Rock) $79.98 on sale

501 skinny selvedge (Pop Rock) $79.98 on sale –There was something about this wash that made it feel so vintage. I feel like this is one of those pairs that you will make totally your own with time. The distressing will come according to your lifestyle. Wearing size 25. You can get it even for less now, extra 30%. I did!

Not a lover of 100% rigid denim?

501 Skinny Stretch (Post Modern Blues)

501 skinny stretch (Post Modern Blues) – This one is not 100% cotton and has some elastane. If you want the fit of a 501 without the break-in process this may be for you. The fit is like the one you get after breaking in the 100% cotton ones.They don’t look or feel the same but the stretch is nice. I’m wearing my regular size but you could size down for a more skinny fit.

The Ones I’ve Already Broken-In

Wedgie Selvedge Icon $148

Just see my face of pleasure of feeling how soft and molded to my body they are!!! That’s 2 years of constant wear!

501 Skinny Stretch (Post Modern Blues) – Without really knowing, I bought my first selvedge pair of jeans two years ago. It had the “White Oak” label. When I first bought them they didn’t fit like this. I hated them to be honest. I felt my butt looked flat and it was so tight around my hips. For some reason I didn’t return them. I really wanted vintage denim Levi’s I guess. So I wore them for a while and then learned how to accelerate the break-in process, (which I’ll show you soon in another post!!) I haven’t stopped wearing them ever since. They are in rotation on a weekly basis all year round and I wear them to take the kids to the park, but also for date night. With sneakers or heels, with a tee or a pretty blouse. My cost-per-wear is down to nothing and since they last a long time it will keep coming down.

Difference between the Wedgie fit and the 501? The butt in the Wedgie is a little more flattering and the rise might be lower. I compared my new 501’s with them and the 501’s had an extra button, which means the rise is a tiny bit higher. I love it. You can’t imagine the many times I’ve said I wished for my Wedgie’s to have a little bit higher rise. Even though I’m petite I have a long torso, so basically nothing actually covers my belly button. Another difference is the leg with the Wedgie – it’s straighter than the 501’s.

The Pair I Chose

With my new understanding of denim and my prior experience with the selvedge Wedgie fit, I knew I wanted to invest in another selvedge pair. So, I went for the one that wasn’t as distressed. Below you’ll see the before and after break-in pic. I wanted to show you so you knew there wasn’t a need to size up unless you really want a looser fit.

501 Skinny Selvedge (Before Dawn) $148 – Wearing my regular size 25.

Tips to buy selvedge Levi’s for less

  • Check the Levi’s website often for sales and your size. They have 20% or 30% sales. 40% on Black Friday.
  • Use major retailer sales. I get mine during Shopbop sales. They usually carry some of the best washes. Revolve also carries a lot. Know the name of the wash you like and look it up online.
  • If you’re good at thrifting go for it. You’ll know it’s selvedge when you turn them inside out and see the edge.

Shop Levi’s 501 Jeans

Levi’s is currently offering 30% off site wide. Unfortunately most of the jeans I tried on are available in very limited sizes. But please know there’s a HUGE variety of washes, so take a look. If not, I linked the ones I have and tried on from other retailers.

 

Now, would you come hang out with me on Instagram? (@theunbosom) for more Levi’s, high-rise jeans, and a real and vulnerable take on motherhood. I’m a fan of being real on social media.

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About Author

I'm a mom who after changing her mindset about motherhood and recognizing the sacred job she was doing decided to dress for it. I love joggers, high-rise jeans because mommy tummy is real, leather jackets, comfy shoes and throwing mom tantrums. My mission? Use my fashion knowledge (Fashion Design graduate) to help other sleep deprived and exhausted mamas look their best. If you can't find me in the bathroom hiding from my kids, I'll be on my blog The Unbosom.  or Instagram @theunbosom begging for bedtime!

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16 Comments

  1. You look great in your Levi’s! Thanks for your helpful review.

    I just bought a pair of Levi’s 501 denim shorts for half off at Nordstrom Rack. It didn’t mention online that it was selvedge denim, so I’m super pleased. I sized up one size based on others’ reviews and the Nordstrom Rack’s online fit predictor. I’m glad I did since there is zero stretch or give.

  2. Julieta – this is awesome! Great analysis 😛 I have a pair of Levi’s wedgie icon in vintage chalk sitting around w tags on coz I’m not sure about the flat butt thing. I’m going to try and break them in – got them on the Levi’s website on sale for under $40! Look fwd to your article about speeding up the break in. I saw the Levi’s wedgie on someone else and had to have them!

    • Thank you Mals! Believe me mine sat in the back of my closet for a while too but same as you I saw them on somebody else and had to have them. I’m so glad you got them for a great price. I’m actually working on the break-in post right now and it will be out for you soon.

  3. I just want to say I loved you noticed that White Oak makes amazing denim – I live 10 minutes from the mill, and the whole area was shocked when we found out it was closing. My dad has worked in textile for 45 years, and Greensboro has lost one of its last ties to a once booming industry. They are turning White Oak into a new apartment, retail, and office space in the old mill area of town – it is a neat way to use the building. But I will miss White Oak denim 🙁

    And those jeans look amazing on you!

    • This is so amazing! I was incredibly sad when I read those news. I’m hugging my white oak jeans very tight, it’s like they mean more to me now. I get very attached to things when I know all the behind the scenes. Thank you for sharing with us.

    • I also live in Greensboro ( 10 minutes from the White Oak plant too)!!! I was so hopeful that the plant would have a resurgence, since the White Oak denim label had become so popular. I was so sad to see it close.

  4. I have the Levi’s 501 skinny in pop rock and I love them! The denim (White Oak) is definitely higher quality than other fabrics and the wash is literally identical to a real vintage Levi’s pair I have from the 80’s. Levi’s 501 skinny is such a great vintage fit at a fraction of the price of other vintage inspired denim lines (i.e. Re/Done, etc). Great review, and look forward to hearing more about your Levi’s!

    • Oh my! I LOVED those “pop rock” I got them as soon as I saw them on sale. Have to break them in now. And yes, Levi’s definitely offers a great price compared to all the other vintage/selvedge lines. I like to try other brands but my Levi’s keep being the most worn of all. Thank you!

  5. Great review. I love the look of non-stretchy denim, but man I have a hard time wearing it. It would be nice to hear about how to break it in…

    • I totally get it. It’s really hard especially when the industry has gotten us used to very stretchy denim. I’m finishing that post soon. Thank you for reading

  6. WakeUpMeggie on

    You’ve turned me onto Levi’s recently – I just purchased a pair of 501 skinnies (love them) and previously grabbed the faded black 721’s that you recommended. Thanks for this great post and for generally reminding me of what a great value this iconic brand is.

    • This just made me smile and I’m naming you my favorite reader haha. You love Levi’s, I love you! (just kidding) Hope you enjoy your 501’s. And those faded black are amazing, I’m actually considering getting a second pair because I wear them so much. Thank you for reading

  7. I’m trying to love this look, but I just am not sure I do. I feel like it doesn’t do what is should for my bum. And I have a bum. I just feel like it makes it look flat and wide and not shapely and round. Am I the only one????

    • It’s definitely not for everybody. We all have our own preferences. I have a bum and I feel good once they have broken-in. Regarding bum I like the Wedgie fit, but love more the higher rise and slimmer leg of the 501. I’m fine with different types of fits and I like to play around with them when I get dressed. Let us know if you give it a try.

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