Ribcage, Wedgie, 501 Originals, 711s; Levi’s jeans are a language unto themselves. There’s low-stretch, high-stretch, 5-button, zipper, low-rise, mid-rise, high-rise, skinny, straight, cropped, bootcut….AND most are available in different lengths. It’s kind of exhausting when all I’m looking to do is buy a pair of jeans.
Like the only girl without pierced ears in grade school, everyone else seems to have their coveted pair of Levi’s, and I — always out of the loop — with my stick on earrings that fall off by midday.
All The Levi’s Jeans Tried & Compared: A Review
It’s not for lack of trying; I’ve ordered many a pair of Levi’s on a whim, only to throw them in the return pile. But I’d really like to find a pair that works. Most Levi’s retail for under $110, making them a fab alternative to designer jeans. Is it my 5’7, short-waisted frame that isn’t made for this iconic brand? Or, do Levi’s just take a little more time to find the perfect style for your body?
I Found My Favorite Pair of Levi’s: Wedgie Fit
At the end of the day (and after many, many try-ons, 16 pairs, to be exact), my favorite pair of Levi’s are the Wedgie Fit. They have a lot of similar elements I love about my other favorite pair of jeans, plus some serious booty-lifting technology. More on these below.
The Try-On Sesh: 501s, Wedgie Fit, Ribcage & 700 Series
All in all, I ended up trying on eight styles of Levi’s in various sizes/lengths/washes; sixteen pairs of jeans in total. Come on the journey with me as I compare the mainstay Levi’s styles in order to — hopefully — help narrow your Levi’s search.
The most important thing I found (that isn’t prominently displayed on each page of the Levi’s website) is the composition of the denim. Basically what the jeans are made of and how the material contributes to their stretch (or lack thereof). It’s really the only way to determine the correct size. And, it was by reading a billion (dramatically different) denim compositions that I was able to truly glean the differences between each style of Levi’s jeans.
1. Levi’s 501 Original Fit
These Jeans Are Perfect For: People who like a non-stretch, heavy, high-rise, straight-leg jean.
The Scoop: I felt like Goldilocks trying on the Levi’s 501 Originals. I couldn’t even button the 29 and was swimming in the 31, but the 30 was just right. These are the OG Levi’s and are a nice departure from skinny, stretch jeans. They do great things for the bum, no complaints there. I decided to order them in a 30 length because I wanted them to hit at the ankle (at 5’7, that’s about a 30 on me). I typically wear sandals, flats or sneakers, so I like a jean on the shorter side. If you prefer heels, go with the longer length.
The Details: High rise: 11.125″, Straight leg opening: 14.25″, Inseam: 30″. Composition: 100% cotton, non-stretch jean. Available in lengths 30 and 32. Arguably the most popular style of Levi’s. These bad boys are 100% cotton; the OG non-stretch jean.
Sizing Notes: Size up. These jeans have NO stretch. Nada. Don’t buy a smaller size in the hopes that you will break them in. They will break you down. I’m wearing a 30 x 30l (TTS) in the wash: Athens Crown.
2. Levi’s 501 Stretch Skinny Jeans
These Jeans Are Perfect For: People who love the rise of the 501 Originals, but with a skinny twist. I’d also call them The Millennial Answer to the Original 501s.
The Scoop: Despite being a denim with some stretch, these 501 Skinny Jeans are not the jeans you size down in. I tried a 29 and my stomach was like, “LOLZ, go back to start, lose $200.” The 30 was a smidge tight, but I know they’ll stretch out during the day and I’m not about to be waddling around with a saggy bum. Maybe I’m just used to skinny jeans, but these felt a bit like coming home. If I was going to go with a 501, it would be the skinny over the OG. Trends be damned.
The Details: High rise: 11.125″, Skinny leg opening: 12.25″, Inseam: 30″. Composition: 99% cotton 1% elastane (it’s a low stretch denim). Available in lengths 28, 30, 32.
Sizing Notes: Go with your usual size to account for the rise (especially if you’re short-waisted like me). I’m wearing a 30 x 30L in the wash ‘Jive Ship’.
3. Levi’s Ribcage Straight Jeans
These Jeans Are Perfect For: Individuals with long torsos. Basically not me.
The Scoop: Ribcage is truly not a phrase I want to hear ever again when it comes to jeans. Seriously these Ribcage Straight Ankle Jeans are basically my nightmare. The length is too short and a 12-inch rise is far too high for this short-waisted lady. These jeans hit parts of my stomach that were like, “whoa, we don’t mess with buttons, what are these doing here? Go away.” It was a mess. So, while the Ribcage style is beloved by many (see Julieta’s ribcage guide here), it’s just not for me.
The Details: Super high rise: 12″ (front), Straight leg opening: 17″, Inseam: 27″. Composition: 79% cotton, 21% TENCEL™ lyocell, non-stretch denim. Available in lengths 27 and 29. The highest rise of all the Levi’s I tried.
Sizing Notes: I ordered these in a 29 x 29L, which (LOLZ), a 30 (chuckle) and a 31 (well at least they button!). Definitely size up 1-2 for Ribcage jeans. These will not stretch. The wash I am wearing is ‘Georgie’.
4. Levi’s Ribcage Bootcut Jeans
These Jeans Are Perfect For: People who love a jean + heels moment (and a high rise). People who are ready for bootcut to come back in style.
The Scoop: I don’t think I’ve ever feared a jean more than a jean promising to be “the highest rise yet” in a bootcut style. For a short-waisted person, that is miserable. I want jeans, not jeans that double as a bra, please and thank you. I ordered a size down to account for “light stretch” (that was a mistake). I’m learning that with Levi’s anything 1% stretch (or no stretch) I need to order TTS or size up. As for length, I went with the 33 because bootcut is great with heels, and I knew I needed a longer length with my 5’7 frame to make them work. A shorter bootcut has a tendency to cut my legs off. A 12″ rise might be asking just a little too much for me. Pass. I’m 0-2 on Ribcage Jeans.
The Details: Super high rise. Front rise is 12″, Bootcut leg, Leg opening is 19.5″. Composition: 99% Cotton, 1% Elastane. Light stretch, heavy-weight denim. Available in lengths 29 and 33.
Sizing Notes: Unfortunately they were only available in a 29 x 33L. The 29 didn’t come close to fitting (you can tell in the pics that I have zero of the five buttons done). I’m assuming that since they are similar to the Ribcage Straight Jean that a 31 would have fit, but possibly wouldn’t have looked right still. I’m wearing the wash ‘High Key’.
5. Levi’s Wedgie Fit Straight Jeans
These Jeans Are Perfect For: People who want elements on the 501s, but with a little more give and major butt-lifting powers.
The Scoop: Misleading name, FAB jean. Winner, winner chicken dinner and the only kind of wedgie I’d willingly give myself. It shouldn’t have surprised me that the Levi’s Wedgie Straight jeans — that are virtually identical in terms of specs to my MOTHER Denim Tomcats — are my favorites, but the elevator doesn’t always go to the top floor.
These Levi’s Wedgie Jeans are a great example of why you should never assume you “can’t do” a high-rise jean. Or a mid rise. (Low rise is always a no for me). It really comes down to inches. There’s a massive difference between a high rise that’s 10.85″ like these Wedgie’s and the staggering 12″ high-rise of the Ribcage Jeans. I might have skipped the Wedgie if I wrote myself off as not having a “body for high-rise jeans.” Read the fine print! Also, these seriously work some kind of magic on ya butt. The weight of the denim is perfect if you’re looking for something a little bit heavier, plus I love the length. Perfect for my flats or sneakers aesthetic.
The Details: High rise: 10.85″ (front), Straight leg opening: 14.5″, Inseam: 26″. Composition: 97% cotton, 2% polyester, 1% elastane. Low-stretch denim. Available in lengths 26 and 28.
Sizing Notes: I tried these on in a 29 (couldn’t button) and a 30. The 30 were too tight for the first hour, but after sitting, retrieving Tupperware my little tyrant had strewn around the house, etc., they had broken in enough to fit perfectly. I ordered in a 28 length so they would hit a little above my ankle. The wash is ‘Jive Sound’.
6. Levi’s 711 Skinny Jeans
These Jeans Are Perfect For: People who are not ready to give up skinny jeans (I might be one of them). Various leg lengths (they come in lengths 28, 30, 32, 34) so lots of options, especially for my long-legged friends.
The Scoop (The Skinny?): Levi’s 700 Series are a stretchy, mostly skinny jean line. Cropped, high-rise, mid-rise, you name it, they got it. Truthfully these were the first jeans I tried on in a size 29 that I could actually, button, zip, hoist myself into. After a few rounds of height-defying rises and #allthembuttons, these 711 Skinny Jeans in a mid-rise were a breath of fresh air, which feels weird to say about skinny jeans that have been around for years. The denim is so soft, which was also a welcome break from the heavier denim of the Ribcage, Wedgie and 501 variety. I’m missing a skinny jean in my closet and these might be it. Plus, they’re perfect for tucking into riding boots if I want to be totally Fall Pinterest Board “cheugy.”
The Details: Mid rise: 8.75″, Skinny leg opening: 10.5″, Inseam: 30″. Composition: 92% cotton, 6% polyester, 2% elastane (aka a stretch-jean).
Sizing Notes: I ordered a 29 x 30L in the wash, ‘Lapis Joy’. I went one size down (from my normal 30 to a 29) to account for the stretch. No one likes a saggy bum by the end of the day so, if you’re on the fence, order down a size and wear them for a day. They may start off tight, but they won’t be by dinnertime. I ordered 30L because I wanted them ankle length.
7. Levi’s 720 High-Rise Super Skinny Jeans
These Jeans Are Perfect For: The skinny jeans + high-rise lovers.
The Scoop: Anything named “High-Rise Super Skinny” is basically my nightmare (after the phrase “Ribcage” shudder). But again, high-rise can mean different things. 10.25 is high, but it’s not the highest rise of the Levi’s. I had the wherewithal to order these Levi 720s in my normal size and was pleasantly surprised by how they fit. They apparently have some Pinky & the Brain-esqe sculpt fabric technology made to hold you in place and show off your curves. Considering I’m about as curvy as a door, I’m not seeing the results, but I’m sure the technology will do wonders for someone else. I love the weight of the denim, and this wash is gorgeous. My only concern is the rise feels a little long, and I worry I might end up with the dreaded saggy crotch by the end of the day.
The Details: High rise: 10.25″, Super skinny leg opening: 9.25″, Inseam: 30″. Composition: 74% cotton, 15% TENCEL™ Lyocell, 6% polyester, 5% elastane, midweight denim, high stretch. Available in lengths 28, 30, 32.
Sizing Notes: I ordered these in a 30 x 30l in the wash, ‘Smoked Out’. Despite the stretch, I knew the high-rise, skinny combo were going to need my usual size or a size up. I find these 720’s to be TTS.
8. Levi’s 724 High Rise Straight Cropped Jeans
These Jeans Are Perfect For: Spring, Summer, early Fall. Shorter individuals (depending on where you like your crop to hit).
The Scoop: In many ways, these 72’s are similar to my beloved MOTHER Denim Tomcats: same inseam, similar rise, 1/2 inch difference in the leg opening, but with one big difference. While the Tomcats are relaxed through the hip and thigh, the 724s are slim through the hip and thigh, which gives them a completely different look and feel. They aren’t bad, I just don’t think they do anything for me, and I prefer a little more give in the hip and thigh area post-kids.
The Details: High rise: 10.25″ (front), Straight leg : 13.5″, Cropped inseam: 26″ Composition: 71% cotton, 21% viscose, 6% polyester, 2% elastane, Mid-stretch Denim.
Sizing Notes: I ordered a size 29 (size down) to account for the stretch. These were the only pair of jeans that I couldn’t choose my length (every pair is a 26).
As I mentioned at the top, these Levi’s Wedgie Jeans were the big winners, proof that even I can do a high-rise jean.
And to my surprise, Levi’s stretch skinny jeans weren’t the big losers I thought they’d be. Despite skinny jeans and side parts being “cheugy”, I still love the fit of a good skinny jean and the 711s, closely followed by the 720s, are contenders to live in my House of Jeans (picture me talking straight to the screen as I type this).
I’ve tried Levi’s before. The results haven’t always been great (see below).
It is possible to find Levi’s that work. Looking up the rise, inseam, and composition of your current favorite pair of jeans is a good starting point when searching for your unicorn pair of Levi’s. The hardest part for me was sizing, but once I honed in on the fabric and figured out which rise worked best for my waist, it became a lot easier. So. While it did take me 16 pairs of Levi’s to find what worked for me, hopefully this post will help shorten your browsing time and get you into a pair of classic Levi’s you, too, can love.