Monday, September 26, 2011

Levi's 501 vs 505

The Levi's 501 (left) vs. the Levi's 505 (right)

If you're looking for a new pair of jeans, you can't go wrong with a nice pair of Levi's. Levi's use a numbering system for their jeans that can get a bit confusing. Two of the most popular jeans from Levi's are the 501's and the 505's. But what's the real difference between the Levi's 501 vs Levi's 505? On first blush they look almost identical. But there are subtle differences that you should be aware of.

First off, the fly of the Levi's 501 and the Levi's 505 are not the same. The Levi's 501 jeans have a button fly while the Levi's 505 jeans have a zipper fly.This is probably the most obvious difference between the two jeans. One benefit of having a button fly is that you'll never be caught with your fly down, an embarrassing situation for anyone.

The fit of the Levi's 501 vs 505 is slightly different. According to some, the Levi's 501 jeans taper down a bit to meet your legs, while the Levi's 505 jeans are straight cut jeans with no tapering. There is some dispute as to whether the 501's actually do taper since the fit of Levi's jeans have changed quite a bit over the years. I've not seen any official description of the jeans saying that they do taper (they are all described as straight leg, same as the 505's), but a number of people online do claim that it does. If it exists, it's very subtle, so it shouldn't make a big difference.

From 1873 when Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis first patented their "waist overalls", the 501's remain Levi's number one selling product. The Levi's 501 jeans come in both Original Fit and Shrink-To-Fit varieties. The Levi's® Red Tab™ 501® jeans sits at your waist and has a classic seat and thighs. It's a straight leg jean with a 16 inch opening. The original fit is made from cotton and is pre-shrunk so it will keep its shape after washing. The Shrink-To-Fit version will also sit at your waist. This one has a straight leg but with a 17 inch opening. There is also more room in the seat. The Shrink-To-Fit name comes from the fact that this denim will shrink around 10% after washing.

The Levi's 505 comes only in Regular fit. It sits at the waist with a regular, comfortable fit through the seat and thighs. The 505's have a straight leg with a 16.5 inch opening. The 505's are also reported to be made from cotton and elastane (spandex), whereas the 501's are made entirely of cotton. The 505's come in regular, extra tall and big sizes.

Your decision to buy the Levi's 501 or the 505 comes down to your preference of zipper vs. button fly and whether you like the fit. If you have the opportunity to try both styles on, I would highly recommend doing that before you buy them online. At the end of the day, either choice will be fine for most people. Levi's offers a great quality jean at an affordable price.

Levi's 501 Levi's 505
Taper Slight None
Fly Button Zipper


  1. Some info here is backwards.... the 501 has more of a straighter leg than the 505, which is slightly more tapered. 501's have the button fly with a straight leg opening of 17" - the 505's are zipper fly with slight tapered straight leg opening of 16.5" (also as per Levi's sizing charts & descripts)

  2. No, the article is correct. The 505 is the straight leg. The 501 is the taper. Any other conclusion is simply not the correct one.

  3. Actually you're both wrong. The left leg on the 501's taper but the right leg is straight. On the 505's the right leg tapers but the left is straight. And the 505's do have a button fly but its in the back. Hope that helps.