I’ve been really excited to hear the team’s thoughts on Levi’s iconic classic, the 501 straight-leg jeans. We’re huge fans of Levi’s in general–not only are their washes perfectly vintage inspired, but the company’s overall commitment to sustainable practices is impressive. To top it off, the price point is great: most Levi’s are under $100.
Levi’s 501 Straight Leg Jeans: A Team Try-On & Review
So. Our “rules,” for this team try-on were to try a pair of the original fit Levi’s 501s, but each editor could choose their length (regular, cropped, long), depending on height and preferences. Shopping for 501s can be a confusing endeavor: it looks like Cam tried on Levi’s 501 skinnies instead. Which actually turned out to be really helpful: the upper part of the jean is identical to the original 501s, it’s just the legs that differ.
Levi’s 501 jeans are considered rigid denim, which means they’re made from 100% cotton, and don’t have any stretch–it can be tricky to find the right size. It doesn’t mean, however, that they’re not soft. Many of us (Jess and I) prefer sizing up 1-2 sizes and wearing them loose, while Scotti and Julieta prefer their usual size (and Julieta has a genius trick for breaking them in).
Depending on body type, some editors complained about the gap in the back of the jean…but if you carry your weight in your middle, that might not be a bad thing (you can see how I deal with that below). You can also try Amy’s approach: below she compared her 501 original fit to her beloved Levi’s Wedgie Straight fit and the big difference? That gap.
My Take On Levi’s 501 High Waist Straight Leg Jeans & Original Cropped Jeans
My take: Levi’s 501s have quickly become one of my very favorite pairs of jeans. I size up one size in this style–I’ve been wearing a size 27 instead of my normal 26 because I like mine to fit a little slouchy, with a borrowed-from-the-boys vibe.
Details: I’m 5’3″, with a pretty straight figure, and I carry my weight in my middle. I’m 45 and have started to notice that I’m…uh…softer pretty much everywhere these days, so that might also be why I’m starting to prefer my jeans a little looser.
My current pair of Levi’s 501s are full-length (not cropped) and super soft. The wash is called ‘Athens Dark’ and they are still 100% cotton. The length is roughly 30″, and I’m really into this full-length jean look. (If interested, you can see two other ways I’m styling them, here.)
Before this pair, however, I had typically bought the cropped version of Levi’s 501s…or hacked off the bottom with scissors to make them cropped. Here’s a quick comparison of full length vs. cropped:
If you’d like to see how, in general, I style up the cropped version of Levi’s 501s, I did an article called The Best Shoes and Boots to Wear With Levi’s 501s (but I can only promise the shoes work with cropped 501s).
Now…let’s talk about that back gap. Since I do size up, and since 501s are, fundamentally, a high-rise, straight-leg, 100% cotton jean…the waist gets a bit big. These jeans do stretch out over time. Since I like this baggier, slouchier look I go with a size up right off the bat, and then tie my back belt loops together once they’re super broken in. Looks cute on the bum, and a perfect fit that can be altered for–ahem–how bloated I’m feeling that day.
Levi’s 501 Cropped Jeans, Scotti’s Take
Scotti Says: After trying (and not loving) Levi’s 501 shorts, I didn’t think I’d like Levi’s 501 jeans, but they were awesome! I ordered a bunch of sizes after reading reviews of how they run big AND small, and my regular size 28s were perfect. I did have to break them in (I used Julieta’s spray bottle trick) but they stretched out so I’m glad I didn’t go bigger.
Because we were all somewhat confused about exactly what constituted Levi’s 501s, I ordered more than one style. I love these for spring and summer but couldn’t justify keeping more than one pair–I mean, I’m still looking for the denim shorts of my dreams. These I did have to size up in (a 29), so I’d suggest ordering multiple sizes to see what works for you–but keep in mind they do stretch with wear!
Levi’s 501 Original Cropped Jeans, Laura’s Take
Laura Says: The 501 Original has been a favorite of mine forever, and specifically the crop. I’m wearing the 26″ inseam and it works perfectly with my fav mid-top sneakers. This darker wash (Athens Battle-also available at Free People) is so rad and has a vintage vibe. The busted knee is right up my alley too and tends to fit my legs better.
Details: I’m 43, an athletic shape with a butt, strong thighs, straighter through the middle and 5’4″. (I choose not to weigh myself.) I size up to a 28 in most of the rigid denim I wear, including these. They’re snug at first but like Scotti mentioned, they break in beautifully with a few wears.
These are some of my most-worn pairs, in all the washes. Yay! Side note…I know, this jacket right? It’s my fav and I’m wearing a Medium. It runs a bit small.
Levi’s 501 Original Cropped Jeans, Meredith’s Take
Meredith Says: It’s my turn to feel, well, meh. On the plus side, I could actually button these jeans unlike the Levi’s 501 shorts I tried on in The Great Jean Short Try-On of 2021. The Levi’s 501 Original Cropped Jeans are not bad, they’re just…not great. Honestly, I’m not even sure I bought the correct pair; ya need a Ph.D. to figure out that website and the plethora of jean options. They don’t do anything for me, plus there is a weird gap in the back which means plumber-city if I ever need to bend over (this I do on the regular as Le Bebe Tyrant decides to test gravity with a spoon roughly 37 times a day.) I barely have enough hands for my kids let along hoisting my jeans up all day.
Details: I’m 33, 5’7, with an inverted triangle/straight-ish figure. I have long legs and a short torso and tend to carry my weight on my stomach. I am wearing my regular size 30 in these Levi’s 501 Original Cropped Jeans (light wash) and they fit fine besides the weird gap in the back. I’m sort of surprised that I didn’t have to size up since they are a rigid denim (I prefer some stretch). The inseam is 26′, which is cropped on my 5’7 frame. My favorite pair of cropped jeans, Mother Denim Tomcats are a 25′ which I prefer. Something about these jeans seems to cut me off and not elongate my legs.
It’s a pass, but I’m still open to finding a Levi’s style that works for me! If there’s anything I should try, I’m all ears…or eyes in this case.
Levi’s 501 Original Cropped Jeans, Amy’s Take
Amy Says: This is my first go around with the Levi’s 501 Original Cropped jeans! I’m a long time lover of the iconic Levi’s Wedgie Straight fit and when I found out those were actually inspired by vintage 501 styles, I figured I would love these just the same. After this try-on I had an “ah-ha” moment about the two pairs that left me favoriting one over the other.
Details: I’m wearing the 501 Original Crop in color “Ra – Light Wash.” My older Levi’s in size 28 have been too tight since having a baby, so I ordered these in size 29 with a length of 28. As a 5’9″ human, I was obsessed with the extra length the Levi’s website allows you to order (not always an option from other retailers)–the jean was cropped perfectly on my long legs!
I sized up to a 29 mostly because I just don’t have the patience to ‘break in’ denim. But alas, size 29 was too big. Sizing up isn’t the most flattering when dealing with rigid denim like this due to the extra thick bulging fabric that can appear around my abdomen. I felt I was constantly needing to pull the jean up or smooth them out–so if you’re shaped like me (very straight + no hips), stay true to size and you should be golden. Despite being big, I loved these a lot, so when I went to exchange these for a size down, I was surprised to suddenly stop myself at the thought of my favorite Wedgie Straight jean. The two pairs are nearly identical, but the Wedgie Straight combines the cool-girl leg of the 501’s with a bonus of an amazing booty (on someone who doesn’t naturally have one). I can see why people obsess over the 501 Original, they are really amazing, but I’m obsessed with how the Wedgie wraps around me and makes curves magically appear! I ended up returning these 501’s and purchased a new Wedgie Straight in size 29 with this glorious 28 length.
Levi’s Wedgie Fit Jeans, Kat’s Take
Kat Says: Okay y’all, I have tried 501s several times, and they are a no-go for me. Unfortunately due to the lack of stretch and more straight-legged design, they just don’t fit my ultra curvy body well. I do, however, love the Levi’s wedgie fit, which is what I am sporting in these photos. Levi’s tend to be a more true denim jean, meaning they have little stretch to them, and I prefer to size up. I also wish that some of the more trendy and cute Levi’s jeans that come in straight sizes were available in plus. I personally find their selection for plus size to be pretty bland and the jeans I am wearing are one of the few pairs that have what feels like an intentional design to them.
Details: As a 5’2″ ultra curvy gal, “rigid jeans” don’t work for me, which is why I am recommending the wedgie fit. I sized up one when I bought these a year or two ago, and they still fit, though they are definitely snugger than last summer.
If you are looking for a similar option to the 501 jean, I would actually recommend this pair from Target. The fit is so much better for me that the 501s were, and achieves a similar look. I love and wear my Target jeans on heavy rotation. Oh and ps. the Target jeans are only $30!
Levi’s 501 Stretch Skinny Jeans, Cam’s Take
Cams says: Levi’s 501’s remain at the tippity top of my All-Time Favorite Denim list. The only other jean to come close to that #1 spot has been Agolde (maaaybe), but even then! I stay true to Levi’s and there’s a reason for that. The fit and feel of them can not be beat. I am a tall one and have never (not that I can remember) tried on a 501 and felt that they were awkwardly short. Yeh, they can tend to lean more towards a cropped/right-above-ankle style on me, specifically the Original Fit that I am wearing below. Even so, I have always found them to be very wearable all year-’round, with a variety of footwear options–sandals, booties, high tops, etc.
Details: I am 5’11. Wearing the Original Fit 501 Stretch Skinny in size 28 (went up one size, recently). Jive Depths–Medium Wash. Straight fit through hip + thigh. High rise at 11.125″. Inseam: 30″.
My favorite way to style them right now is with a cool, dainty lace-up sandal. I find that they do close that “bare leg gap” rather nicely, which makes them appear less of a crop. It isn’t necessary, in my opinion, BUT it is one great way to wear them. I had an oversized, lighter wash, denim jacket (similar to this one) over top before I took these pictures, but thought it detracted from the fit + style of the jean for this post. Anyways, I was really digging the look.
FYI: I recently went up one size, within the last year, from a 27 to a 28. I think that if you’re in between either size, it really depends on how you like your jeans to fit. If you prefer more fitted, go with the size down…if you like them a tad roomier, consider the size up. I still have some 27s, but they do fit snug, as I am now pretty much a solid 6 in jeans. At least, in Levi’s. I hope that helps!
Levi’s 501 High Waist Straight Leg Jeans, Julieta’s Take
Julieta says: It’s been at least 5 years that I have been a fan of Levi’s vintage cuts. One of the favorite posts I’ve ever written is my old “Your guide to Levi’s 501 Jeans”. Every week I get DM’s telling me, “you saved my Levi’s!!”. For this try-on, I went for the Levi’s 501 straight leg fit. My favorite Levi’s are the Wedgie and the Ribcage; however, the 501s have a more relaxed vibe that I love. They are forgiving in the waist, especially if you need or want more room in the waistband.
Details: I’m 5’2″, I have some curves, and for the past 8 months, I’ve been a size 26, up from 24-25. For these Levi’s, I went for my regular size. A size up looked huge, and even though I like the baggy jeans idea, these don’t work as baggy jeans for my body.
I’ve learned the hard way that they give a LOT after you wear them, leaving me with huge jeans I don’t want to wear. 100% cotton is supposed to stretch around 2 inches, so now I know that even if they’re a little tight at first, they will get bigger. That’s why I like to break them in. At a point in my life, I’d get in the tub wearing my jeans, but one, they would get big all over, and two, nobody has time for that!
What do I do now? If you follow me on IG you know (check my highlights.) I put them on, see where my body needs more room, grab a spray bottle with warm water, a drop of softener, and spray those tight areas. The result is always jeans that mold to my body. They still keep stretching the more I wear and wash them, giving me that worn-in look and feel.
This pair was initially tight around my hips, thighs, and upper leg, so I did just that. I sat in front of my laptop for a few hours, and when I stood up, they weren’t tight anymore.
Length-wise, I didn’t particularly appreciate how they looked bunched over my shoes, so I’m cropping them around 1.5 inches and sewing the original hem back in. I have a Nordstrom alterations credit I’ve never used for that! Haha.
Levi’s 501 Original Ripped Jeans, Jess’ Take
Jess Says: Oh, yes, yes, yes. I’m a big-time fan of 501s and I have accumulated quite the collection over the years. I just counted in my closet and I have four different variations: Ripped Straight Leg 501s, Distressed Cropped 501s, 501 Skinny Jeans, and 501 original fit jeans. I know one of the issues people have with 501s is the stiff, non-stretch, type of denim fabric. How I deal with that is by always ordering at least one size up (sometimes two) and they also need a few good hours of wearing in to get you in the groove.
Details: I’m 5’7″ with a curvy frame. I have wider hips, athletic legs, and a flat-ish bum. I usually wear a size 28 in jeans but can’t fit in a size 28 when it comes to 501s. I am wearing a size 29×30 below and I also have one pair in a size 30 for a more relaxed fit.
Levi’s 501 Original Cropped Jeans, Em’s Take
Em Says: Couldn’t be more excited to wax poetic about my love for 501s for this month’s team try-on. I’ve been wearing them for more than 10 years (my oldest pairs are buttery soft and pajama-comfy! They look even better as they break in, too), and they’re just so dang classic with a not-too-high rise.
Details: These are the 501 Original Cropped (read: rigid denim), and, as with all my 501s, I’m wearing my true size, a 25. Honestly, I’m probably closer to a 26 these days, so these are genuinely fitted at the moment, but fortunately they’re pretty forgiving and just keep breaking in to fit my shape. On my bod, which is mostly straight through the middle (where I carry a little extra weight) with strong legs and a booty, they’re ideal. Snug on the bum, no gapping at the waist.
I’ve had the ones I’m wearing above for a few months now, and they get better and better with every wear. They’re truly the best friend of ribbed tanks, graphic tees and easy sweaters–my bread n’ butter. The busted knee distressing is pretty freaking good, too. Perfect for spring. Looking forward to trying Julieta’s spray bottle trick on the bum where they’ve gotten ever so slightly snug. (Can’t tell if credit should go to pilates or the pandemic for that one, but I’m rolling with the extra curves!)
Until next month…