Finding a pair of good fitting vintage Levi’s can feel like trying to find a unicorn and if you’re like me you have tried plenty of new denim brands out there, If interested, you can check out this post I did “Where to Find Sustainable High-Waisted Denim” but honestly, nothing quite compares to a good pair of vintage Levi’s! I’ve had so many ask how & where I find them I thought I’d put together a little guide to help you out because I promise it’s not impossible!
#1 most important! Know your fit & measurements!
Knowing your measurements is so important so if you don’t own measuring tape and you plan on shopping online EVER invest in one! Here’s the one I keep in my purse.
Okay now that we have that taken care of…
I currently own two pairs of what I’m guessing are both 1980’s vintage Levi’s. I got my first darker wash pair for $35 at a vintage Expo in Baltimore and my lighter wash I found at a vintage store in NYC for $160. Clearly, there is big price difference but when you find a pair that fit you get them! Anyway, I thought that the tags were too faded on either to tell but I was able to see that bot pairs are 512’s so clearly this is the fit for me. When it comes to vintage Levi’s and in order to start searching for some vintage ones you need to know which style you like best based on your sizing and preferences.
Styles of common Vintage Levi’s
501 (most popular)
505 (typically straight leg)
512 (curvier fit, skinnier leg)
517 (typically boot cut and straight fit)
550 (relaxed/boyfriend fit)
I find that Levi’s in the ’80s and ’90s had the highest rise (call em’ mom jeans if you like) either way its the style I prefer!
Here is a super helpful size chart that will help translate the tags on vintage Levi’s
Where to Search!
Now I have yet to find a perfect-fitting pair of Levi’s thrifting (I don’t count a vintage store as a thrift store) But I have found vintage Levi’s that I ended up taking to my local tailor to get altered. I found a nice high waisted pair and had the wais taken in so they would fit better! This is actually what ReDone does with their denim by the way! So if you get lucky and find a pair that are close to fiting get them and have them taken in professionally! Note that in order for them to not look odd make sure you are only taking them in about two sizes otherwise, the pockets will look a little weird!
You will typically find the largest variety of styles and sizing of vintage Levi’s at a vintage shop and its a great place to start trying them on so you can get a feel of what size and style fits best!
For me, vintage stores are where I have had the most luck and typically It’s when I’m traveling that I wind up finding a new pair so do little research in your local area or nearby cities or even where you are headed on your next trip!
Online is best if you have nailed your sizing and style down, then you can easily search any of these spots to find a pair.
Depop – App only but a great spot for more affordable pairs!
Both Etsy And eBay will require the most time and search but can yield some amazing finds at great prices! Pro Tip: eBay allows you to save searches with your specifics saved so you can get alerts when new items are listed that match your criteria!
Etsy tips: Certain sellers tend to go more “niche” and will focus on selling a large number of levis since they know they are popular! I always save my favorite sellers and check back seeing if they have new stock!
Try some new Levi’s!
Now I once got in a debate on the sustainability of Levi’s and I learned that although they are not a “sustainable brand” their practices are actually a lot better than I expected. And when it comes to being “sustainable” buying a quality, well-fitting pair of jeans that will last you IS sustainable to me!
A few styles worth looking into that have a more “vintage Levi’s” vibe
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