Levi's Fits Explained
It’s fair to say that Levi’s are the greatest of all time when it comes to denim. They have been pioneers of innovation, quality and fit for years. Established in 1853, the brand has well and truly stood the test of time, showing their ability to offer timeless and well made fits.
It comes as no surprise that a pair of Levi’s can last a lifetime, given the brand was born from the desire to make good quality, strong pants for working men. Back in the 1850s, Bavarian Levi Strauss was working with his brothers in their dry goods wholesale business in New York. He later emigrated to San Francisco during the Gold Rush and saw a demand for bringing long lasting, durable pants to the miners.
Carrying a legacy of longevity, their ability to maintain a timeless appeal comes down to their diversified product line throughout history. This explains why Levi’s have so many different fits. From their classic 501 fit, to their more formal 559s, Levi’s cater to all styles.
But How Do All These Different Models Fit?
We understand it can be quite overwhelming when shopping for Levi’s. So we’re here to explain some of our favourite fits, to assist you in finding your perfect pair of vintage Levi's.
Their original fit and one of Levi’s most iconic styles. 501s feature a straight leg cut, with no-stretch material.
Medium rise / Button fly.
A relaxed silhouette with a wider fit to the thigh area, straight leg cut and a slightly tapered ankle. Comfortable style. Similar to 560s but with a more straight leg.
Medium rise / Zip fly.
A relaxed, casual fit. The 505 fit falls somewhere between 501s and 550s, with a slightly wide straight leg. They have a roomy fit to the thighs, cutting straight down to the ankles.
Medium rise / Zip fly.
A loose-fitting jean designed with comfort in mind. This model sits at the waist, with a loose fit on the thigh, wider knees and a slightly tapered leg from the knee. This non-stretch denim pair offers a slightly different structure to the 550s.
Mid rise / Zip fly.
Levi’s 517 were originally made in 1969 to fit over boots, intended to be a ‘cowboy jean’. They are designed to sit at the waist, with a slim thigh - and you guessed it, a boot-cut silhouette.
Mid rise / Zip fly.
Levi’s 615A regular fit, straight leg cut that sits at the hips. They have an anti-fit ‘seat’, which means they don’t follow the shape of your body. A very casual silhouette.
Mid rise / Zip fly.
So hopefully we have managed to provide insight on how some of the different models of Levi's fit. With such a great variety to choose from, there is a pair of Levi's for everyone.
Want to learn more about vintage Levi's? Check out our guide on all the different vintage Levi's tabs.
What is a Single Stitch Tee?
The single stitch construction shows a single row of stitching securing the hem edges and sleeve cuffs of the garment. On most modern t-shirts the standard double row of stitching is now used.
The single stitch construction was the most common method of t-shirt manufacture during the 1980s and 1990s circa within the USA. If you’re in the market for a pre 1999 vintage piece but you’re unsure about dates, the single stitch construction will generally always have the vintage stamp of approval.
Look and Feel
The material of a single stitch t-shirt is almost as important, if not equal to the stitch itself. These tee’s have a softness no double stitch t-shirt could replicate. Single stitch garments do not hold creases like a firm cotton shirt; their breathable, paper thin fabric holds value like no other.
Buying Single Stitch T-Shirts
As touched upon in the above point, when shopping for single stitch t-shirts the look and feel of the garment, from the material to how it hangs is a tell-tale sign that it is a vintage piece. If that isn’t enough to reassure you, the single row stitching construction that stands out amongst common double stitch tee’s will confirm that early 90’s era.
A Ringer T-Shirt has a different coloured neckline and sleeve cuffs to the body of the t-shirt. The single row of stitching might be hard to see with a ringer t-shirt, so consider the material and how it feels. If it’s soft enough to sleep in you’ve got yourself a single stitch tee.
You may have heard the term 50/50 or Fifty-Fifty when shopping for Vintage t-shirts; this refers to the material composition being 50% cotton and 50% polyester. Yet again this blend provides a soft-to-touch garment that sticks out amongst any standard firm double stitch tee.
Single Stitch Nowadays
Brands and designers nowadays use the single stitch construction to replicate the Vintage aesthetic. Their thick lines of stitching secure slightly firmer and rigid fabric highlighting the difference in the original paper thin tee’s.
Vintage t-shirts are a gateway into vintage fashion; understanding what to look out for will not only simplify your shopping experience, but it will enable you to find unique pieces that will upgrade your wardrobe tenfold.
Why do Levi’s have different colour tabs? Why have some Levi’s got big ‘E’s’ and others small? Why has the tab been cut off on my vintage Levi’s? As the first name on everybody’s lips when asked about the world’s most famous Denim brand, Levi’s traces its origins to Bavarian immigrant Levi Strauss (1829-1902), who emigrated to San Francisco in 1850, where he noticed a demand for durable pants from the miners of the US Gold Rush, and Levi’s was born. However, it wasn’t until the 1890’s, 40 years later however, that Levi’s created their first pair of their most famous jeans, Levi’s 501.
Why do Levi’s have a red tab on the back pocket?
Instantly recognisable despite their small size, Levi’s tabs are the trademark of Levi’s. A small piece of fabric tied to the brand across the world, the Levi’s tab stands for quality and craftsmanship in line with the brand’s core values and production of high quality goods. Off the back of an expired patent in the late 19th century, Levi’s needed to set themselves apart. Many other jeans being produced at the time had similar pocket stitching, a patch on the waistband, and not to mention being blue. Thus, Chris Lucier, national sales manager of Levi’s at the time, came up with the idea of the red tab with ‘Levi’s’ sewn in white, such that the brand could be seen and recognised at first sight. By the turn of the century, with the brand growing in recognition, you immediately knew if someone was wearing a pair of Levi’s. The tab was then patented in 1936 and has since been at the forefront of ruthless copies around the world. It's so heavily imitated that Levi’s now hire full-time members of staff to catch out and sue the sellers of those using their red tab!
The Big ‘E’A collectors item! Have a pair of Levi’s with a full capital spelling in Levi’s on the tab? You’ve got yourself a pair of pre-1971 jeans. As time progresses, ‘Big E’ tabs, as they’re known in the industry, are increasingly hard to come by, and even harder in top condition!
The Small ‘E’So why did Levi’s change to a small ‘e’? In 1971, Levi’s decided to switch the spelling of the tab back to a lowercase ‘e’, in order to make it easier for collectors to differentiate the 2 era’s of Levi’s pre and post 1971.
My Levi’s don’t have any text on the tab? As we mentioned before, Levi’s take counterfeit of their trademark very seriously, requiring legal over-time to maintain the right to market for their trademark. To strengthen this, Levi’s produce a limited batch of products with a completely blank plain tab, aside from their trademark symbol. This proves ownership and trademark of the tab and it’s positioning, not just the wording on the tab. My Levi’s tab is a different colour?
Orange tab is the experimental arm of Levi’s design team, differentiating from the popular Levi’s fits such as the 501. In the 1960’s Levi’s introduced the orange tab as their ‘fashion denim’, spanning their entire range from Jackets to caps, flares and bootcuts, orange tab became a staple of the youth, blurring the lines between classic denim silhouettes, and moving away from the comfort zone of fits that Levi’s were known for. Orange tab are our favourite type of Levi’s, they’re slightly harder to come by, due to their age, but they often fill the void for that ‘perfect pair of denim jeans’ that everyone is always looking for! Top tip: To distinguish between 60’s and 70’s orange tab, and subsequently high value in the former, keep an eye out for care labels, as these weren’t legally enforced in the USA until 1971.
Not seen too often, Levi’s White tab ran between the 60’s and 70s and are most commonly seen on Levi’s range of corduroy, including corduroy trousers and jackets.
Black TabLevi’s Black Tab complete with gold lettering was used during the 1960s for Levi’s products treated in the then- new Sta-Prest process, or anti-wrinkle, to you and I. Still used in the present day on black denim, Levi’s black tab are now solely used for aesthetic reasons only.
Recognisable on chunky corduroy and baggy streetwear- inspired denim, Levi’s Silver Tab represents the grunge era of the late 80’s and early 90’s.