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581 of 602 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2009
If you're looking for the old-fashioned style Levi 501 jeans like the ones you bought in the 1970's or 80's, that are made of heavy denim and you bought them oversize and washed them hot to shrink them to size, at least one of the ones listed on this page is the right one: the Color: Rigid STF (at the moment it is the color at the far left).

It took many hours of searching and researching (researching blue jeans!) at several online stores and non-store websites to determine whether equivalents to my old ones were even made anymore, and if so, which ones they were. Levi calls countless styles Classic or Classic Fit, and countless others Original, and the 501 number was apparently successful, so they call a lot of them 501, too, to the point where these adjectives and style number have no meaning anymore. Classic and Original probably just mean they're Levi-Strauss, and 501 is meant to catch your eye. Maybe they hope you'll make lots of mistakes and have to buy lots of jeans while hoping to find the right ones. If it sounds like I'm joking about that, I'm not.

So it was with some relief that I got these, saw that they're the right style, shrank them down, and they're fine. There is even an improvement over the old ones: the button-fly holes are now are reinforced with stitching, which they didn't used to be. Mine say Made in Haiti; quality seems just fine. The denim is heavy-weight.

If you're looking for the type of old-fashioned plain style jeans that I described, the keywords to look for are: Rigid, Indigo, Shrink-To-Fit/STF, Straight Leg, Button-Fly, Rivets, and 501 (even though it can mean almost anything). When you're looking at an item description, the more of these keywords are omitted, the more suspicious you can be that you may be looking at an "impostor", possibly even an impostor style made by Levi itself.

Shop carefully. It wasn't an accident that I ended up with the ones I set out to buy. It took more than a day of traversing the Levi-Strauss style minefield.
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274 of 287 people found the following review helpful
These are still made from the original indigo-dyed rigid denim manufactured Cone mills in North Carolina, and are of good quality. The trick with these is to buy a bigger size then you ordinarily would, as they shrink considerably. Especially if you want to be able to roll up the cuffs, you need to buy either 2 or 4 inches longer in the inseam, i.e. if you normally wear a 32, by a thirty-four or 36, because it will shrink almost 3 inches after a couple of washes. If you want to wear them over boots, definitely go up 4 inches. I have found that the waist shrinks about an inch and half, so if you normally buy a 36, buy 38. The other thing is that if you want to avoid whitish streaking down the leg, turn them inside out when you wash them. To avoid spotting from the starch used in new shrink-to-fit fabric, wash then in hot water the first few time. Basically they will shrink through the first three washes and and pretty much stay where they are. After that, when you get them to the color you want, wash them as infrequently as possible and they will get a nice natural fading, which will look much better than any of the "hand finished" jeans they charge so much for nowadays. It will always look better if you do it yourself through natural wear.
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138 of 150 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2011
I've worn Levi's 505's (zipper fly) from when I was a teenager up until last year, when Levi's changed them from "regular fit" to "straight fit". I am very slim with narrow hips, and the straight fit 505's kept sliding down over my hips. So I tried a pair of prewashed 501's. I wasn't thrilled about the button fly, but I got used to it. The fit was great; very much like the older style 505's.

About 6 months ago, I decided to give shrink-to-fit 501's a try. My "true" size is 30x30. I got my STF's in size 32x31. I wasn't up for the shrinking-them-in-the-bathtub routine. Instead, I put them in the washing machine with hot water, gave them a spin dry, put them in the dryer for just a few minutes, and hung them until dry. The result fit me perfectly, much better than the prewashed 501's. These 501's have been in the washer and dryer many times, and now look like a prewashed pair. They are starting to get a lot of fade over the knees. The fit is still perfect!

I really like the 501 STF's and highly recommend them. The denim fabric feels much stronger and more substantial than the prewashed jeans. If you have the patience to deal with the shrinking, you get much more control over the fit.

I decided I really like the look of the unwashed Denim, so I recently ordered and received 2 pair of 501 STFs from Amazon, one size 32x31 and the other size 30x30. I shrunk the 32x31's, but I am wearing the 30x30's unwashed and unshrunk. I am going to try to wash both pairs as little as possible, using cold water, Dr. Bonner's soap, and vinegar, as described on Levi's web site (and many other blogs), and compare how the 2 pairs age. I'll update this review as things progress.

I got both pair in the "Rigid" color, which is the traditional Levi's dark indigo. Prior to washing, the indigo dye does not fully penetrate into the intersections of the threads in the denim fabric. The un-dyed parts of the fabric form a pattern of white dots, which makes the overall color look much lighter than prewashed indigo jeans.

I shrunk the 32x31 jeans in my front-loading washer, inside out, in hot water, no soap, on the gentle cycle. I skipped over the rinse cycle, gave them a gentle spin for a minute, wore them for a couple of hours, then hung them up to complete drying. I did not use the clothes dryer. I got a perfect fit, just like my last pair. The indigo dye bled on to the un-dyed part of the fabric. This made the shrunk jeans look darker than the un-shrunk pair. The shrunk pair retained the rigid feel. So for now I like the look of the shrunk pair more. But the real test will be how they age later.

Update 1/13/2012

In the past 2 months, I've worn each pair about 1/3 of the time, and other pants the remaining time. So each pair has been worn about 20 days. Neither pair has been washed yet.

The pair that I shrunk have softened up quite a bit, and look almost like pre-washed jeans. They are just starting to show some fading on the knees and around the objects I keep in the front pockets.

The non-shrunk pair still maintain most of their rigid feel, and aside from some creasing, look pretty much the same as they did when they arrived from Amazon.

I like to keep my new jeans fade-free for use as "dress jeans" for as long as possible. So at this point, I prefer the pair that I did NOT shrink.

Update 2/12/2012

It was finally time to wash these jeans. I used cold water, Dr. Bronner's soap, and vinegar, followed by a cold water rinse, as described on Levi's web site. The non-shrunk pair now have a beautiful color, about half way between the original color and that of the pre-shrunk pair. The non-shrunk pair also have most of their original rigidity, and their leather tag looks perfect (the lettering on the tag on the pre-washed pair faded in the hot water).

The fading on the pre-shrunk pair has progressed a bit more, while there is still no visible fading anywhere on the other pair.

Unfortunately I did get some shrinkage in the non-shrunk pair, which were getting wet for the first time. The waist shrunk 1/2" and the inseam shrunk 1". The waist shrinkage isn't a problem, as it stretched out while wearing the jeans. The inseam is more of an issue. I tried to stretch the legs several times while drying, but that didn't work; the fabric shrunk back as soon as I let go.

For my next pair of jeans, I plan to buy them in my actual waist size, but with 1" extra length, and wait as long as possible before washing them in cold water.

Update 11/17/2012

After their first wash, the non-shrunk pair were too short to use. So I recently purchased a new pair in my actual waist size and 1" extra length. I wore these for several days, then washed them. This time I washed them in the bath tub with Dr. Bronner's soap and vinegar. I am hoping that keeping them flat during the wash will reduce fading around the creases that occurred when my other pairs were machine washed. So far the results are fantastic. I plan to use this method from now on.

Hope that helps...
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103 of 117 people found the following review helpful
I have found that these shrink a bit less than what Levi's says. In the waist, they shrink about an inch as opposed to the tho inches that Levi's says. The leg shrinks about 2 3/4 inches, rather than 4. So don't buy them too oversized, unless you are going to be washing many times in hot water and a hot drier. Since most people like these dark nowadays, that is unlikely. Also, these are very well made. While much negative commentary concerning Levi Strauss's move away from domestic manufacturing has focused on the button-fly 501s, the bigger problem I have seen is with the old 1970's standby, the 505, which has a zipper as opposed to button fly. The variability on sizing and sew quality with the 505s means you really have to try them on to see how they fit. The 501 are much easier to buy online or by mail order because the sizing is much less critical on the waist, which is the so-called "anti-fit" waist, meaning there is no curve to the rise (the distance between the crotch and the top of the waist), because the original 501s were merely cut down bib overalls which were made to hang, rather than be fitted to the waist. The biggest problem I have noted on the 505's is the variability in size in the thigh area, meaning that some fit baggy and some seem rather tight, even though they are theoretically the same size of a label. The 501s are pretty safe as far as sizing.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2015
These are the worst quality fabric jeans/pants by far. I washed them once and they look all stained. They were also wrinkled up, which I thought was a temporary situation. After washing and drying them a couple of times they still look horribly wrinkled. I will return these poor quality jeans right away!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2011
If you like "crispy" jeans as i do...meaning a good stiff will love these...these are a true shrink to fit a good rule of thumb...if u like the tighter fit then only buy them one size up...if you like the somewhat looser fit easy through the leg buy them two sizes bigger...will be buying all washes of 501 shrink to fit jeans
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2014
Hallelujah! These are the jeans I have been searching for! I typically order 36-30 in 505s. I bought 38-33 in these. After shrinking, they fit fine. Read below for details.

I wonder how many pairs of jeans I've wasted in my life by not knowing how to shrink them properly. Back in the day, I used to buy 505 jeans. They would fit great until I washed them one too many times, then they'd shrink too much. I guess I never got the memo that they should be bought in a bigger size and shrunk according to strict rituals. Thank you internet for finally cluing me in.

For the good of mankind, I will now type a summary of my experience.

Background: I'm in my mid-forties, do not have a gym membership, and have a beer belly. I'm also recently divorced and cannot afford to look like a dweeb, which I used to do when I wore the same pair of 550s for decades. I'm told these jeans made me look like I took a daily regiment of 'noassatall' pills. Thus the great jeans search began.

I immediately became frustrated by modern styles. All these pre-made whiskers and fading are total BS. Hey--everyone has their own style, so I'm not judging if you like that stuff. But for me, I think jeans look best when the wear and tear is genuine; not some pre-fab fake distress BS.

Another issue for me was that modern low rise cuts that help me seat, also accentuate my pot belly. This is an unfortunate Catch-22 for middle-aged men like me.

Being partial to Levis, I tried on many of the new styles. As others have indicated, Levis tweaked the styles making it impossible to pick one out based on previous experience. 505 and 514 are the recent styles that work best for me. Personally, I liked the fit and feel of LL Bean 1912 jeans, but was told by my inspection committee that 505s and 514s look better.

Enter the STF 501s. If I was buying a pair of custom tailored slacks today, I would measure ~ 36.5-30.5. Due to glamour sizing, in 505s I wear 36-30. I would ideally order 36-31 in that cut if they made such a size.

For STF 501s, I ordered 38-33. Based on advice from these comments and elsewhere, this is how I shrunk them:

1. Soak in bathtub with hot water for 40 minutes.
2. Hang to drip dry for 40 minutes. Jeans will still be very wet.
3. Wear around the house for 40-60 minutes. Think to self, 'I can't believe I'm doing this' as you put back on freezing cold, wet jeans. To avoid elephant knees, do not squat. Do not sit on furniture.
4. Hang to dry.

IMO, what to do next depends on the look you are going for. If you like whiskering around the knees, then stop here and enjoy your jeans. For me, I want to avoid whiskering. My pants were still slightly too long at this point, causing the stiff fabric to bunch up, which caused wrinkles, which would have lead to whiskers. I don't want this so I shrunk them some more by:

5. Washed in washing machine. Hot water.
6. Hung dry.

Tried on and they were still too long. Kept going.

7. Washed again in hot water.
8. Put in dryer for 15 minutes. Hot.
9. Hung to finish drying.

They are now my best pair of jeans, resembling 36-31 size in mid-cut. Seat looks good, but does not draw unnecessary attention to my beer gut.


> The legs seem to have shrunk two inches instead of the advertised three. I assume they will shrink a little more with repeated washing.

> I plan to wash as needed and hang dry. You guys talking about washing your jeans every six months are nasty. I mean, I get if you're wearing them to read a book that they don't need to be washed often. But if you wear them out and about they are going to get dirty around the ankles; mud, party funk, bathroom grime, etc.... Be civilized. Wash your damn clothes please.

> When you use the dryer they become less stiff. This is not a bad thing for me.

> The pockets more resemble the 514s than the 505s. The pockets are too deep on the last pairs of 505s I bought.

> For the recent 505s I've bought, the crotch point feels low. These 501s do not have this problem.

> Do not confuse regular 501s with STF 501s. They are different cuts.

> The buttons are a bitch to get used to. I was worried when I buttoned them for the first time, but they get easier each successive time. Still, in a perfect world, I would rather have the same cut with a zipper, i.e. STF 505s. Not complaining however, because Levis screwed up so much much of its legendary product line in recent years that I will gladly take these as an affordable step back towards their quality of old.

I wish I had found a post like this years ago. I have now done my duty for the betterment of my fellow men. Buy in confidence and enjoy.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2015
the jeans would be great, but this particular pair came without tags, button fly completely unbuttoned and are clearly a used pair that was returned, and have been laundered. as "shrink to fit" jeans, this makes them useless. they even still smell and feel like fabric softener. these jeans as new "shrink to fits" should be nearly rigid enough to stand up on their own. wtf Amazon. points deducted.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2013
The inseam (between legs) only have one row of stitching now. The cuff hem is shorter and stitching is only 1/4 inch from the end of the leg opening. The fabric feels thinner that the 2 yr old 501s I'm wearing now. The product is different than the image.
The price is going up, and quality in going down. I'm pretty disappointed with the direction Levi's is going. It may be time to find an alternative to by beloved STF 501s.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2012
The denim is much thinner, I wore a hole in the back pocket in less than a week. I have had 501 work jeans last several years without any problems. In the last year or two the quality seems to be slipping. They seem to be at a new low. They are probably fine for casual wear, but don't bother buying them if you are hard on jeans. They really need to change their famous logo, it borders on false advertising these days.
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