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Comparing Levi’s 501, 511, 522, and 541 Jeans

June 23, 2015 | by Josh

I’ve been wearing Banana Republic jeans for a long time. Not only because I love them, which I do, but because I know exactly what I’m getting when I order them online.

I’ve wanted to branch out to other jean brands for a while to see what I’ve been missing, but the difference in fit was a high barrier of entry for shopping online. I went to the Levi’s store to do the heavy lifting for all of us, and I hope that the findings this brief Levi’s style comparison help in your decision-making. The timing worked out too, because there’s currently a 25% off sale styles at Levi’s website. Use the promo code 25SUMMER to get the deal.

The Current Champ:

Banana Republic Slim Vintage Wash Jeans, $89.50

Banana Republic Slim Vintage

Banana Republic Slim Vintage

I wear a 31×32 in the Banana Republic Slim Vintage Wash Jean. These jeans fit the butt well, and they are tight around the waist. On the first wear after washing, it’s a tight fit for a phone in the front pocket when I’m sitting down, but they loosen up on subsequent wears. The fit is a little long for a 32, and they taper around the ankle. This means that they bunch up on bulkier shoes, which can be frustrating if I’m not going for that look.

I buy these jeans because I know what I’m getting. They fit well and my wife likes how I look in them.

The Contenders:

501 Levi’s Original Fit Jeans, $68.80

501 Original Fit

501 Original Fit

Normally (with my BR jeans) I wear a 31×32, but in the 501 Levi’s Original Fit the 32” waist was tight.

I believe that this is due to the waist riding a little low. The fit, though, was comfortable around the waist as well as on the butt. For non-slim fit jeans, the pockets were a little tight for my phone (an HTC One). Additionally, the 501 is well-known for being a button-fly jean — not my favorite feature.

The Verdict: Take a pass. They fit great and made me look good, so pretty big plusses. On the downside, the button-fly is not conducive to late nights at the bar, so I decided to take a pass and avoid the drunken fly fumble. That may not be a big deal for everyone else, but I really prefer a zipper.

 

522 Levi’s Slim Taper Jeans, $78.00

522 Slim Taper

522 Slim Taper

I tried on a 31×32 of the Levi’s Slim Taper. I’m not sure if these jeans are high-waisted or low-crotched. If you wear them where I usually wear jeans, they made me feel like a mom in the ’90s. I guess that style is back for the ladies, but I’m not ready to buy into all of that hullabaloo. They fit tight, but there’s still room for a phone in your pocket when you sit down. Due to the high waist, they were baggy on the butt for a slender guy like myself. The jeans had a quad break on the shoe, so they must run a little longer than the other styles. With as high as they fit on my waist and as long as they were in the leg, I definitely wasn’t feeling the style. They were also loose around the waist for a 31” — odd because I had to size-up for the 501s and the 511s (reviewed below) compared to the Banana Republic size I’ve been wearing for the past couple of years.

The Verdict: Take a pass. I’m not interested in rocking high-waisted jeans that are baggy around my butt. These pants were not made for guys like me.

 

541 Levi’s Athletic Fit Jeans, $68.00

Levi's 541 Athletic Fit

Levi’s 541 Athletic Fit

I tried on a 32×32 of the Levi’s Athletic Fit. They fit great around the waist. From there, though, they were baggy —  baggy around my thighs and baggy around my calves.

The Verdict: I took a pass. These pants didn’t fit me well at all. They’d be great for people who have a tough time fitting their butt, thighs, and/or calves into a more traditional cut of jeans.

 

511 Levi’s Slim Fit Jeans, $68.00

I had to try on two pairs of these. First, I tried on a pair of the Levi’s Slim Fit non-stretch, heavyweight denim (12 oz.) in a 31×32.

There are no pictures of these because once I got them up to my boxer briefs, I began a tucking-in operation in earnest. They were so stiff they felt starched. I got them up past my waist before I realized that there was no way that I would ever get the jean’s closing mechanism to operate.

The Verdict: I felt like Kramer.

I asked for a different pair to try on, leading me to…

511 Slim Fit

511 Slim Fit

The second option was a pair of Levi’s Slim Fit stretch heavyweight denim in a 32×32.

They fit like a dream, and they had plenty of room to spare due to the fabric’s stretching ability. Pizza and Mountain Dew during a long release night, here I come! They felt nearly the same as the 501s down to the knees, but then the taper kicks in so they hugged my calves more. They’re a little bit lower-waisted than the 501s, and reproduce the same butt-hugging properties of the original. The stretch in the jeans means that even though they’re a little more snug looking, they actually fit my phone better when sitting down.

The Verdict: Buy! These 511s had of the good qualities of the classic 501 jean, with stretchy fabric in a cut that’s a little more modern. The stretch fabric blend makes these jeans fit similar to my favorite Banana Republic jeans while being a little bit more forgiving when I need to move.

Interested in getting your own pair? Head over to Levis.com to check out what’s on sale! Shop now >>

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