Levi’s jeans aren’t perfect by any stretch, but I’m a huge fan of them because they strike a good balance between price, quality, and style. Can you find cheaper jeans elsewhere? Sure, but they’ll likely have unflattering cuts or sacrifice denim quality. If you’re just starting on your style journey and want to step up your jeans, Levi’s is a good first stop.
The thing about Levi’s is, they have many different cuts, and each one goes by a numbered label (called a “fit number”). Not sure which Levi’s jeans number is right for you? Here’s a quick guide to help you pick the one that’ll be most flattering to your body type and style intentions.
The 501: Original Fit
The 501 is the original Levi’s style, first released in 1873. It’s not ugly even by today’s standards, but it is a bit old-fashioned, and I don’t recommend it unless you’re purposely going for a style that’s more towards vintage. It sits on the waist, the legs are cut straight all the way down to the ankles, and the front is done up with buttons.
The 502: Original Taper
The 502 is a slightly slimmer version of the 501. This one is low-rise so it sits below the waist, and the legs are cut straight down to the knees then given a slight taper from the knees to the ankles, with a zip fly. If you aren’t comfortable wearing skinny or slim jeans and you’re thinking of wearing the 501, I highly recommend going for the 502 instead, which are just as comfortable but more stylish.
The 510: Skinny Fit
This is the ideal Levi’s style if you’re skinny. It sits on the waist, then tapers down the knees and continues tapering down to the ankles, with a zip fly. It’s a flattering look, especially if you have a butt. The only time I’d recommend against the 510 is if you’re athletic-skinny with big thighs because these will be quite uncomfortable. In that case, look to the 512. Or if you’re super bulky in the thighs, the 541.
If you’re extremely skinny or you just want to go for that skin-tight look, the 519 is even skinnier than the 510 and will hug your legs from hips to ankles. It’s honestly a bit too tight for me, though.
The 511: Slim Fit
The 511 is the perfect gateway pair if you’ve always worn clothes that are too baggy for your frame yet you’re reluctant to wear form-fitting pants. It’s slim, not skinny, sitting just below the waist and tapering down all the way through the knees and ankles, but not as tightly as the 510. This is the fit I wore at the start of my own style journey, and they got me a lot of compliments.
The 512: Slim Taper
The 512 is kind of like a hybrid: expect the fit of the 511 from hips down to the knees, and the fit of the 510 from the knees down to the ankles. It’s the pair you want to wear if you have slim calves and like the silhouette of the 510 but find the 510 too uncomfortable in the thighs, particularly when you sit down.
The 514: Straight Fit
This is basically the same as the 501 except it sits below the waist and has a zip fly. I’ve owned a few pairs of the 514 before and I find that they aren’t very comfortable, but your mileage may vary.
The 541: Athletic Fit
The 541 is ideal for those who want the slim-fit look but have really big thighs, mainly in the form of muscles. If you’re a heavy cyclist or bodybuilder, these might be the only ones that fit you while still looking stylish. It sits on the waist, has extra room for the butt and thighs, and tapers down through the knees and ankles without being too slim.
Levi’s Men’s Styles to Avoid
There are several styles in Levi’s lineup that are too old-fashioned or unflattering, and you should avoid them at all cost. The only exception is if you have unusual body and these are the only ones that fit you comfortably, but there are very few cases where this is true. The styles to avoid include:
The 505: Regular Fit
This is basically the 541 with a straight cut from the hips down to the ankles. I won’t deny that it’s comfortable, but it isn’t flattering at all. If you want the extra roominess, go for the 541 and enjoy the slimmer silhouette. If you just want the straight cut, you’re better off with the 501 or 514 so that the extra roominess doesn’t hang off of you in an unsightly way.
The 517 and 527: Boot Cut and Slim Boot Cut
You can wear boots with any of the recommended Levi’s fits mentioned above: straight cuts can go over boots, slim cuts can tuck into boots. Unless you’re a literal cowboy, you do not need boot cut jeans! These are just way too baggy and look extremely outdated.
The 550 and 560 and 569: Relaxed Fit, Comfort Fit, Loose Straight Fit
These are like boot cut jeans on steroids. You will be swimming in these jeans, which is not a good look at all. And to be honest? They aren’t even that comfortable. At best you’ll look like a dad whose wardrobe is stuck in decades past.
A Final Note on Levi’s Jeans and Chinos
While these fit numbers are technically for Levi’s jeans, they also apply to Levi’s chinos and other pants styles. However, Levi’s has notoriously bad quality control when it comes to consistent sizing within a fit number, so two pairs of 514 pants may not actually fit exactly the same. That’s why I highly recommend going to a brick-and-mortar Levi’s store when buying; if you buy Levi’s online, you may or may not be disappointed by what you receive.
Some of my favorite pants come from Levi’s, and I wear the same fit number for both jeans and chinos. I started on the 514s many years ago, then moved to the 511s, and now wear the 510s as I think they are the most flattering for my body type. Go with whichever fit number you think looks best for the style you’re going for, but don’t be afraid to experiment!