Levi’s 501 vs 505 Jeans: What The Numbers Mean?

Levi's 501 vs 505 Jeans (in the photo: Zoe Kravits)

Jeans come in all shapes and sizes, in numerous designs, colors, washes and cuts. The options are in abundance and with the rise of e-stores it’s easier than ever to find the perfect style for each and everyone.

Brands that design and sell jeans are also in abundance, but few have the reputation of Levi’s. Their jeans are known worldwide and come with stellar reviews, a true showcasing of their high quality and comfort.

In a previous article we discussed the differences between Levi’s and Lee, two of the most renowned brands of denim garments and looked at what makes them so popular, as well as which one is the better choice.

Today we will focus specifically on Levi’s jeans, to get a better understating of what the numbers mean when it comes to design and fit.

It can get confusing going through a series of numbers, which are not accompanied by the actual name of the style or cut, but we are here to help, as always.

We have picked two different fits, to compare to each other and see where their differences lie, the Levi’s 501 and the 505 jeans.

Image above: pinterest.com

1. The Brand

Before we move on to the designs we have picked, let’s first learn a bit about the brand and why it’s so popular.

Levi’s is the denim brand of the Levi Strauss & Co. company, which was founded by Levi Strauss in 1853 in San Francisco, California.

The brand’s popularity and good name came from the fact that, unlike many other clothing brands at the time, the pants of which would not be as durable as necessary for workers, the jeans made by Levi’s were extremely so.

The reason for that was the rivet reinforcement, which helped the pants be less prone to tearing and thus last for much longer.

However, the real boom was in the 1900s, when jeans became part of the mainstream, not solely limited for workers, and later went on to become the most fashionable piece in the wardrobe of many. If you are thinking hippies and rockers, you are spot on.

The ’50s and ’60s is when jeans really kicked off and ever since then they were never out of style.

2. Levi’s 501 Jeans – The History

The 501 jeans design was not a fashion piece when it was originally created. As we mentioned in the comparison between Levi’s and Lee, it was a design made out of necessity.

The 501 jean was made for workers in 1873, who were in need of work pants that would withstand the hard work and harsh environments. They were the original riveted jeans, making them last considerably longer, which was ideal for workers at the time.

Seeing how the zipper flyer was yet to be invented, let alone used in pants and clothes, the original 501 jeans had a button fly, which is still maintained to this day.

Levis Jeans 501: Kendall Jenner

Image: pinterest.com

They were men’s jeans originally and still, to this day are more popular among men due to their cut and style, but women’s designs and variations are also available and they are just as great in quality and comfort.

The 501® Jean: Stories of an Original | Full Documentary

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3. Levi’s Jeans – What Do The Numbers Mean?

Unlike other brands, which rely on certain names for their designs, Levi’s uses the three digit numbers in order to categorize their jeans.

It may seem a tad difficult to keep track of all the numbers and what they mean, but attached photos and, unsurprisingly, the description of how they fit, are all part of online listing and labeling for these jeans. Therefore, you do not have to memorize much (or at all, if we are being honest).

Now, why are the numbers used in the first place? In short, the numbers represent fit, meaning that they are a ‘code’, per se, that indicate a particular fit, be it in men’s or women’s designs.

Levi's Jeans - What Do The Numbers Mean?

However, there are differences among men’s and women’s interpretation of the number.

In the case of women’s jeans, the numbers determine how the jeans fit through the waist, hips and thighs, whereas the men’s determine how they will fit overall. There are also differences in cut and shape of the leg for women’s jeans, whereas the men’s are standard.

The video below by The Lucy Space gives a really thorough rundown of the 501 jeans styles

Levi's 501 Styles (Comparison & Try On): ORIGINAL, SKINNY, TAPER, CROPPED

This video is provided by YouTube.com, a third party. If you Play it, you accept their terms of service, and their use of cookies.

4. Comparison: Levi’s 501 vs. 505

Now that we have all the technicalities out of the way, it is time to look at today’s chosen designs, the 501 and 505 jeans.

First, the 501 jeans come in a variety of cuts and styles, as the video above shows. There is a skinny jean, tapered, shrink-to-fit and even shorts. However, we will focus on the original design.

4.1 Fit And Cut

Both of the designs are shrink-to-fit in regards to wear, meaning that they tend to fit a bit more snug on the hips.

There is a slight difference, however, because the 501 fits looser on the thighs than the 505. From the knee to the ankle the cut is straight and the length of the 505s is longer, in a bootcut length, whereas the 501s end slightly above the ankles.

Levis Jeans: Fit And Cut

The 501s have a high rise, thus they are higher at the waist, whereas the 505s end right at the hips due to being a mid rise design.

4.2 Fly

As we mentioned before, the original 501 jeans were created before the zip fly and thus its fly was made of buttons, which has remained so to this day.

The 505, on the other hand, has a zip fly.

This is a major difference between the two, but does not really affect wear or comfort so much as practicality when putting them on or taking them off.

4.3 Material

They are both jeans and denim, which is cotton in its composition, is the base material used in both.

But, because the design and fit varies among the two, the 501s are made of 99% Cotton and 1% Elastane, which gives it a slight amount of stretch for a more comfortable wear.

The 505s are slimmer in fit, therefore they also have 1% Elastane in them, which helps with the stretch and makes them fit more comfortably as well as takes the stress of wear off the cotton, making it less prone to ripping or tearing.

The fabric blend for the 505s is 78% Cotton, 21% Polyester and 1% Elastane. They are made with the Water<Less™ technology.

What this technology does is it saves water during the finishing process in production of the jeans, because it uses up to 96% less water than typically required.

4.4 Color And Wash

The original 501s come in the classic indigo blue color, which is available in both dark and light wash, with highlights along the front creases and thighs.

The 505s are also available in the indigo shades, but because they are made to fit more snuggly, which also makes them more suitable for curvy women, the highlights are minimal in most of the styles, while very evident in some of the vintage ones.

You might also like: Alternatives to Levi’s Jeans: 8 Ideas Reviewed

With that we end today’s piece, where we looked at two classic designs by Levi’s and learned more about the brand as well as about the meaning behind their special number coding.

We hope you enjoyed it and we will see you in the next one!

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