The Anatomy of a Pair of Jeans – Levis 501 Shrink to Fit

I have never really been a SuperFuture-status crazy denim head, but I have long been aware of the raw denim obsessions of many people. I am a simple dude when it comes to jeans – Levis 501 Shrink to Fit are my favorite, and there is no need to even consider another brand. I don’t do skinny. I don’t do boot cut. I don’t do designer. At $35, 501s are perfection. As I prepare to retire a pair of 501s, I thought I would take the opportunity share how one truly owns a pair of jeans.

So you start with a blank canvas. Notice how the jeans above are perfectly flat, as if they were just pressed and starched at the dry cleaners. This is what they look like brand new.

There is nothing really rewarding about wearing a pair of jeans like the ones above. You need to break them in by wearing them. Keyword: WEARING.

Forget the whole shink-to-fit part. There will be no shrinking. There will be no shrinking, because there will be no WASHING. That’s right. The jeans you are about to see below – don’t hold it against me – are 10 months old and have never been washed once. They have been exposed to wind, water, dirt, subways, airplanes, pavement, park benches, strippers, dogs, cats, food, groupies, money, keys, phones, and who knows what else. But it is well worth it…

Because when it is all said and done, you have something money can never really buy: a 100% unique pair of jeans molded to your every joint, bump, crack, moose knuckle, etc.

Click any photo below to enlarge

Notice the wrinkles behind the knees. People pay extra for new jeans that look like that, and it is not even custom-created for you. That’s just silly. Unfortunately, those wrinkles are likely from hours and hours of sitting at a desk.

Some details:

Notice how the bottom of each pant leg is now permanently creased to hang over my carefully selected footwear just right. You could not iron out those creases if you wanted to. I am a big fuckin’ dork, I know. But there are others that are way worse than me, I think.

As a young kid growing up in West Texas, I always thought it was cool to see the old guys with a Skoal Ring circle worn into their back pocket from their can of chewing tobacco. You can still see that influence on me today:

It is a little embarrassing to reveal my laundry habits when it comes to my jeans, but I couldn’t imagine it any other way. Cool thing is… my next pair may very well last me to 2010!

26 responses

  1. The level of insight and observations as illustrated in posts like this are in part of what I think it means to be a true skateboarder. I think that has been one of skateboardings most valuable impacts today. The sheer reality of things and insight through experience. I would even surmise it is why skateboarding is having an impact in art, media, and culture. Keep it up.

  2. Cool man! Another guy who wears STF 501s the same as me.

    I don’t think that 501s should be washed either. I wore my last new pair of crisp hard raw STFs for two years before washin the suckers. Wore em to Alberta Canada and climbed some Rockies in em, wore em to a cowboy dancehall. They have good vibes.

    When I did wash my STFs the first time, holes started appearing in the crotch. Lesson is never wash em.



    i don’t wash my jeans for shyt man and that’s how we fuckin do it in the lone star state.. also i agree with tim.. i’ve never started to get crotch holes in any pair of jeans until i washed them..

  4. you may or may not already be a member, but if you are into dry denim you ought to check out superdenim in the superchat section located here:

    thats pretty good for 10 months, i have a pair of 501’s I’ve been wearing for not quite a year and a half.

    • Agree! American’s original jeans are the best and most visually appealing! There is nothing like them for comfort, convenience, and sensual feel again the skin!

  5. I only wear raw STF 501s. I freeball in my Levis and lv to get my dick a bit tortured. Some sweat in my new 501s, but my STFs soak it up.

    I keep my washed STF 501s for shyt dirty jobs. That extends the life of my new hard raw 501s.

    STF 501s are cheap here in Californy. When they’re at 30 bucks each, I stock up. Getting two year’s use outa a pair of STFs is enough. After that, they’re just used for shyt. I give em away and buy new ones.


  6. Ever heard of putting them in the freezer? Should kill anything you picked up without sacrificing it to the washer. Haven’t tried it yet myself.

  7. Pingback: Put This On | Episode 1: Denim « ROBBY WELLS

  8. I couldn’t help but click the link to this page. I was wondering if any of you know anything else about jeans. Like how they’re made and what the true anatomy of a pair of jeans is. I’m a Senior in High School, and one of the crappy – useless requirements to graduate is to complete a Senior Project. My Senior Project is designing a pair of jeans and I know absolutely nothing about it. It’d be great if you could help me, I’d appreciate it a lot. 🙂

    • Oh wow… I would not even know where to start in designing a pair of jeans! I wish I could help but I suggest search youtube for interviews and other content. Or search out specific aspects of jeans, such as ‘Selvedge Denim’ to find articles or videos of people talking about the design/process and model yours after that. Just a suggestion. Good luck!

  9. Wow – since you don’t wash your STF’s – then you must buy them to fit instead of doing the larger waist and longer leg so that they do fit once washed – am I correct????

  10. Well, lovely to read there are other Levi´s STF-lovers, who really like the only original and raw product: Levi´s 501xx, the mother of all jeans.
    Here in the Netherland I do the same: wear it for at least a year without washing, only airing and after lon wear take a swim or a bath and let it dry on my body. Really perfect.
    After 2 years I start washing them in the machine and when my beauty is faded and thin, I am going to patch it everywhere with 501-denim, leather, handkerchiefs, curtains (like in the flower-power period) to make it personal and wear it again with pride.
    Unfortunately I can not buy the 501xx here in Europe, I don´t know why. So when I am in big need of a new 501xx, I surf on Ebay to find a USA-made 501xx and let it send to me. That´s more expensive than lucky you in the States, where you can buy it for 30 dollars (I bought 3 of it when I was in NYC in 2007, made in Colombia, not so good as USA-made ones according to me).
    This weekend I am wearing an old washed-out and self-patched 501xx (USA-made in 1993, bought it second hand by Ebay Germany). Feels great.
    ´A day without a 501xx is a spoiled day!!´

  11. Man, 501s have definitely been a hit in our family. My dad wore his (sans washing, of course) until I stole them from him when I was in ninth grade. I wore them for three years until the holes became ghastly. (Another great addition to the landscape of YOUR jeans.)
    I’ve since moved on to many other fits and brands, but 501s hold a special place in my grungy heart.

  12. Great that your dad also wore 501´s unwashed. I can hardly imagine that my dad did the same. I do of course and what about the ghastly holes: I would advise to patch them (or let it patch if you are not handy at sewing and patching) and wear them again. I wear my 501´s if needed patched over and over and over again. Some 501´s are invisible because all the patchwork I have made on them.

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