Levis-number-guide

Levi Strauss & Co. manufactures some of the highest quality jeans in the world. But believe it or not, the company wasn’t always in the clothing business. When it was founded in 1853, Levi Strauss & Co. was a simple drygoods store that sold wholesale supplies to local general stores. That is, until the 1870s, after one of the company’s frequent customers, Jacob Davis, sent a proposal to Levi Strauss himself offering to go into business together manufacturing tough, quality overalls and jeans with riveted pockets.

Strauss accepted, and in the 1890s Levi’s created the first pair of Levi’s 501 Jeans, a style that not only went on to become the world’s single-most popular article of clothing, but would serve as the flagship for one of the most legendary lines of jeans the world has ever known.

You’ve undoubtedly heard of the 501s and perhaps even the 505s, but what about the rest of Levi’s iconic denim? Also, which pair is right for you? Here’s a complete guide to Levi’s numbers.

What Did Levi’s Numbers Originally Mean?

501 was the number chosen to designate the first copper-riveted denim overalls Levi Strauss & Co. produced in 1890, and that’s about where knowledge about the numbers ends. It might be anticlimactic, but it’s the truth. There had to be some meaning behind the numbers, since these designations are never picked at random, but whatever meaning was likely lost in 1906 during the San Francisco earthquake and fire that destroyed Levi’s headquarters, factories, and records.

The only bit of helpful info is that there used to be a 201 jean that was a less expensive version of the 501, along with a handful of other three-digit designations. If we can speculate wildly for a second, it’s possible that the first digit of the three originally pointed toward the price or quality of manufacture. But, again, that’s wild speculation.

How Do I Find My Levi’s Style Number?

You can nitpick your way through the Levi’s online jeans guide all you want, but the only way you’re going to find the style number that’s right for you is by putting jeans on. Knowing things like whether you generally prefer a slim fit to a straight fit with room for boots is a good starting point. But remember there are variations of fits, and you may find you want more room around your thigh or that your footwear demands a bit more of a taper.

There’s also the fact that Levi’s is an evolving company. Sometimes it discontinues old styles, releases new fits, or tweaks existing jeans. Couple that with the fact that your body will eventually change no matter how well you treat it, and it’s highly likely that you’re not going to be locked into one number for your entire life. Stay flexible.

Want to read more about the best denim jeans? Click here for Cool Material’s Guide to Denim.

501-Levis

501 Original Fit

The original jeans that started it all, the Levi’s 501s were specifically designed and released in the 1890s for hard-working men who needed clothing that could take a beating and stand up to the toughest work environments.

You have options if you’re looking for something only slightly different, too. Apparently, 90s fashion is coming back enough for Levi’s to release the 501 ‘93 Straight Fits, a 90s style version of the 501s.

Cut: Straight Leg Classic Fit

Leg Opening: 16”/17”

Best For: Average Joes and working men

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502 Regular Taper Fit

The 502 is an in-between for people who enjoy the comfort of the 501s, but also like the fitted look of the 505s. The pants feature a roomier thigh like the 501s and 505s, but with a modern tapered leg for a more casual, modern look.

A few years ago, Levi’s added a 502 variant to their WellThread Collection, which puts a ton more emphasis on environmental sustainability. It should fit the same and comes with the benefit of not destroying the planet.

511 vs. 502: The main thing you have to think about here is how you want your jeans to fit around your waist, pelvis, and thigh. If you’re one for the security of a narrow fit, you’ll want the 511. If you want a little less denim hugging your skin, go with the 502.

Cut: Straight Leg Slim Fit

Leg Opening: 14.5”

Best For: The casual kid and the modern worker

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504 Regular Straight Fit

The 504 Regular Straights may not have preceded the original 505s in a historical way, but stylistically, the nomenclature is perfectly fitting. The 504s mimic the 505s almost identically in style and fit, only with some modern alterations. The 504s feature a slightly smaller leg opening, a slightly slimmer look (less room in the thighs), and most noticeably sit low on the waist, where the traditional 505s sit at the waist.

Cut: Straight Leg Slim Fit

Leg Opening: 16.25”

Best For: The Modern Classic Rocker

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505 Regular Fit

Another staple of the Levi’s family, 505s were first released in 1967 in the midst of a cultural revolution in the U.S. and elsewhere. Featured on the cover of the 1971 Rolling Stones album Sticky Fingers, the 505s became a symbol of Levi’s transition from work clothing to a cultural mainstay.

505 vs. 550: The 505 is a straight fit that allows for a little more movement around your thigh area. The 550 is loose all over and visually so, with a helping of dad energy coming off them too. Both are comfortable, so your question has to be, how much of that comfort do you want people to see?

Cut: Straight Leg Loose Fit

Leg Opening: 16.5”

Best For: The Mick Jagger in us all

510-Levis

510 Skinny Fit

A newer addition to the Levi’s lineup, the 510s are skinny fit jeans that are purposefully left leaner, meaner, and with as little leg opening space as possible. Musicians, artists, and athletes all love the style, and since its release a few years ago, it has become a permanent fixture in the Levi’s stable.

Cut: Skinny Leg Slim Fit

Leg Opening: 13” Opening

Best For: Skateboarders and rock and rollers

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511 Slim Fit

An offshoot of the 510s, Levi’s 511s are for modern men who follow fashion trends, but aren’t necessarily trying to squeeze into anything. They’re slim and narrow, but not uncomfortable, and they go well with everything from T-shirts and hoodies to loafers and blazers.

511 vs. 502: The main thing you have to think about here is how you want your jeans to fit around your waist, pelvis, and thigh. If you’re one for the security of a narrow fit, you’ll want the 511. If you want a little less denim hugging your skin, go with the 502.

Cut: Tapered Leg Slim Fit

Leg Opening: 14.5”

Best For: Fashion-forward men unwilling to sacrifice comfort

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512 Slim Tapered Fit

Billed as a generally narrower version of the 511 Slim Fits, the 512 Slim Tapered Fit actually features the smallest leg opening of all in the 510, 511, and 512 class. In fact, it’s narrow the whole way through, from the thigh through the leg opening. Where it does align with the 511 is that it sacrifices zero comfort with its snugger fit. It actually might be a little magical—we have no idea how they do it.

Cut: Tapered Leg Slim Fit

Leg Opening: 12”

Best For: The man who likes it skinny, but not uncomfortable

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513 Slim Straight Fit

The 513 Slim Straight Fit is a mid-rise design that sits just below the waist and features a slim seat and thigh, but still promises comfort and on-trend modern style. You can pair ‘em with Chucks and a T-shirt or go all out with something more sleek and modern. A blazer and hoodie combo, maybe?

Cut: Straight Leg Slim Fit

Leg Opening: 15.75”

Best For: Younger professionals

514-Levis

514 Straight Fit

Coming out of the slim seat and thigh models, the 514 Straight Fit still sits below the waist, but offers a regular seat and thigh and features a 16.5” leg opening for a stylish, yet relaxed, fit that doesn’t care about “skinny.”

Cut: Straight Leg Regular Fit

Leg Opening: 16.5”

Best For: The Renaissance Man

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517 Boot Cut Fit

Boot cut Levi’s are as American as apple pie, and the 517s are an excellent choice if you want classic style with modern touches (like a slightly slimmer leg).

Cut: Boot Cut Slim Fit

Leg Opening: 18.25”

Best For: The Cattle Rancher

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519 Extreme Skinny Fit

Even a word as, well, extreme as the word extreme is probably slightly an understatement for the fit on these jeans. Super skinny through the hip and thigh, all the way down through the 12.25-inch leg opening, these jeans are probably more for show than comfort, but damn are they worth it.

Cut: Straight Leg Slim Fit

Leg Opening: 12.25”

Best For: Iggy Pop and literally nobody else

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527 Slim Boot Cut Fit

Even if boot cuts aren’t necessarily your style, every man should own at least one pair of 527s because they’re incredibly comfortable and go with everything from sneakers to cowboy boots. The pants feature the standard boot cut leg opening, but with a slim seat and thigh, which gives them a modern look and feel while maintaining the classic comfort of a solid boot cut.

Cut: Boot Cut Slim Fit

Leg Opening: 18.25”

Best For: The Karaoke Country Boy

531-Athletic-Slim

531 Athletic Slim

Slimmer than the 541s, the 531 Athletic Slims are for guys who work out, want their jeans to fit that, but don’t necessarily want the tightness of something that shows off every muscle. These sit lower on your waist and have added room in the seat and thigh.

Cut: Slim Leg Athletic Fit

Leg Opening: 13.5”

Best For: Runners Who Want to Hide It

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541 Athletic Taper

Probably not the most cleverly named of Levi’s lineup, the 541 Athletic Fit features a straight leg and athletic seat and thigh, which means they offer a slimmer look, but nothing stifling. If you’re looking for something to accentuate the features you’ve worked so hard for without feeling like you’re wrapped in plastic wrap, the 541s are your huckleberry.

Cut: Straight Leg Athletic Fit

Leg Opening: 15.75”

Best For: The Man Who Appreciates Comfort and Leg Day

541-Levis

541 Athletic Straight

Probably not the most cleverly named of Levi’s lineup, the 541 Athletic Fit features a straight leg and athletic seat and thigh, which means they offer a slimmer look, but nothing stifling. If you’re looking for something to accentuate the features you’ve worked so hard for, without feeling like you’re wrapped in plastic wrap, the 541s are your huckleberry.

Cut: Straight Leg Athletic Fit

Leg Opening: 15.75”

Best For: The Man Who Appreciates Comfort and Leg Day

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550 Relaxed Fit

Levi’s 550 Relaxed Fit jeans are probably some of the most comfortable pieces of denim you can lay on your butt. If you’re not into the low rise craze, the 550 Relaxed Fit is meant to be loose with a relaxed seat and thigh, but also feature a slight taper down toward the ends, which makes them ideal for use with sneakers, trainers, and even **shudders** sandals, if that’s your thing.

505 vs. 550: The 505 is a straight fit that allows for a little more movement around your thigh area. The 550 is loose all over and visually so, with a helping of Dad energy coming off them too. Both are comfortable, so your question has to be, how much of that comfort do you want people to see?

Cut: Tapered Leg Relaxed Fit

Leg Opening: 16.5”

Best For: Average Joes

551-Z-Authentic-Straight

551 Z Authentic Straight

The 551 Z Authentic is basically a rerelease of Levi’s first pre-shrunk jeans. The stitching is all the same and it has that “anti-fit” as they call it, with the looser cut in the seat.

Cut: Relaxed Anti-fit

Leg Opening: 16.25”

Best For: People Who Remember the 551 Z

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559 Relaxed Straight Fit

If you’re into the low and easy style of the 550s but want a more modern, below-the-waist fit, the 559 Relaxed Straight Fits are absolutely perfect. Featuring a roomy seat and thigh while paying attention to modern style, the 550s don’t taper (in fact, the 18-inch leg opening is massive), but feel perfect from top to bottom.

Cut: Straight Leg Relaxed Fit

Leg Opening: 18”

Best For: The Astute Man Who Appreciates Style, But Cares About Comfort

560-Levis

560 Comfort Fit

Another creatively titled addition to the family, the 560 Comfort Fits are literally just that—loose fitting, mid rise, and a slight (and completely unobtrusive) taper below the knee to give them some form and make these jeans one of the most comfortable of the Levi’s family. But, the 16-inch leg opening still makes them practical and stylish.

Cut: Tapered Leg Loose Fit

Leg Opening: 16”

Best For: Men who just want to be comfortable

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569 Loose Straight Fit

Low, loose, and baggy are the three words that most perfectly describe the 569 Loose Straight Fits. Even though the style is technically considered a straight leg, they are super wide with an 18.5-inch leg opening. These are the literal opposite of the 510s, but aren’t bad in their own right.

Cut: Straight Leg Loose Fit

Leg Opening: 18.5”

Best For: People Who Think JNCOs are a Tad Aggressive

Huckberry-x-Coors

Huckberry has been our go-to menswear destination for ages because of their unique ability to combine quality and style–like their latest drop with Coors. This collection of beer-focused throwback gear is as cool now as it was in the late 80s. Banquet Work Jacket and Vest. Banquet Crew Sweatshirt. Vintage style Pearl Snap Shirt. More Banquet Patch / Waxed Canvas / Corduroy hats than we can shake a stick at. There are also Banquet Tees, Shorty Sleeve Shirts, Socks, and combinations of everything we mentioned. Add some old-school style to your rotation with Huckberry x Coors here.