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 (@julietatorresd), I’m often wearing Levi’s jeans. They can be my very loved 724 Skinnies, my ultra high-waisted Mile high 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! 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.

Levi’s 501 Jeans Compared

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.

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, they were famous for 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 Skinny Jeans

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. In 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 choose 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 – The wash is amazing. I’m wearing a size 25, which is my regular size. It feels tight on the 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 – Link will take you to ebay, one of the only ways to find selvedge denim now. My favorite pair and the one I chose mainly because it wasn’t super distressed. When I’m going to spend this kind of 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. Get this same wash in the wedgie style (not selvedge unfortunately) 

 501 Skinny Selvedge (Pop Rock) 

501 skinny selvedge (Pop Rock) – (my exact pair is long gone, linked a similar one I might like more) 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. 

Not A Lover Of 100% Rigid Denim?

501 Skinny Stretch

501 skinny stretch (similar) – This one is not 100% cotton and has some elastane. I recently got this non-distressed pair and I LOVE IT.  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. 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

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

Wedgie Selvedge Icon (similar) – 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.

Note: You can see more of the break-in process here or this very practical video on my Instagram (@julietatorresd)

Difference between the Wedgie fit and the 501? The butt in the Wedgie is a little more flattering, and even though they seem to have the same rise, the button fly has one extra button, making the rise look longer than the Wedgie fit. Another difference is that the Wedgie is more curvy-friendly, while the 501 are wider in the waistband.

The Levi’s 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 – It’s long gone, but try this ebay search 501 skinny selvedge before down + your size 

Tips To Buy Selvedge Levi’s For Less

  • Check Levi’s website often for sales and your size. They have 20% or 30% sales. Even 40% on special holidays. 
  • 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.
  • Try eBay, I’ve gotten some selvedge pairs there since they seem to be sold out in most retailers. A simple search of style+ wash + your size always works. Add selvedge to it and you’re good, this is one search for the ones I chose: 501 skinny selvedge before down + your size 
  • 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 limited sizes. But please know there’s a HUGE variety of washes, so take a look.


Now, come hang out with me on Instagram? (@julietatorresd) 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.