Levi’s 501s go down as one of the most iconic pairs of jeans of all time. The style has a rich history spanning 140 years, but it had a period of unprecedented popularity from the late ‘80s to the mid ‘90s. By 1999, Time Magazine had named 501s the clothing item of the century They had a uniquely unisex fit. The rise was lower than what we were used to in the ‘80s. The roomy waist, which you reined in with a belt, was a new concept. As was the roomy crotch point whisker. Gals with boyish bodies looked particularly good in 501s because they were men’s jeans.
Thinking back to 1991 when I wore my first pair at age 21, I remember feeling invincible in them. I felt like I had finally made it in life. They were expensive outside of the US, so I had to save up my waitressing pennies to purchase a pair, which were black and not blue. Ooooh, how I loved them. And I loved that Greg wore the same style of jeans as me in a different waist and length measurement.
501s lost their momentum at the turn of the century in favour of the new bootcut with a little stretch. Premium denim brands were launched shortly after that, and before long the era of the 501 for women was over. I believe the style stayed popular with men for much longer, which I guess makes sense because they’re men’s jeans.
Levi’s recently revamped the iconic jeans style, calling the line the 501 CT. The CT stands for “Customized and Tapered”. Apparently, tapering the legs of the original 501 was a very popular alteration. This prompted Levi’s to do it for us, thereby changing the original fit of the jeans.
Although the fit of the new 501s has changed, its wide waist, 100% cotton fabrication, relaxed through the thigh fit, and button fly remain the same. Furthermore, because people wore the original 501s both in fitted and baggy silhouettes, Levis encourages you to purchase the style in the size that best reflects the way YOU want to wear them. Size down for a slim and modern fit. Wear your regular size for a classic fit. And size up for a very relaxed fit. Watch this video for a visual explanation.
I look at the new 501s and my emotions are torn. Part of me really wants to wear them because of their nostalgic integrity. Personally, I think it’s fun to wear trends a second time round when they held a special meaning to you. Perhaps Greg and I could wear matching pairs again. On the other hand, they are basically another pair of boyfriend jeans, which I have already worn extensively over the last three years. If it were a year ago, I’d probably have a pair of the new 501s already. But I’m weaning myself off the style in favour of straight legs and silhouettes that are more fitted on the bottom. As Levi’s suggests, I might try sizing down in the style to see how I like the way those fit. But for now, I’ve had my fill of big and baggy boyfriend jeans.
Over to you. Did you wear 501s back in the day? What do you think of the new customized and tapered design feature, and would you wear them again?