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How To Determine Production Date of Vintage Levi’s 501 Jeans

The 8 Essential Details You Need to Look For

Some of the most frequently asked questions we get are related to determining the authenticity of vintage jeans, especially vintage Levi’s 501 jeans. This article provides an overall guide to the eight details you should be looking out for when putting a production date to vintage Levi’s 501 jeans, exemplified with this rare pair produced between 1967-1968.

A Study of Levi's Patches: 1967-1968. This guide gives you an overall view of the 8 essential details you should be looking for when determining the production date of vintage Levi's 501 jeans.
Vintage “redline” selvedge denim made by Cone Mills in the 1960s.

1) Selvedge or no selvedge

The first thing you should look for when inspecting vintage 501 jeans is whether it’s a selvedge denim. If so, the jeans are likely to be produced before the mid-1980s.

Learn all there is to know about selvedge denim here!

2) Inspect the red tab

If there’s a Big E on it, you’re well on your way to the big jackpot. If the red tab only has lettering on one side (the one facing the front) the jeans are pre-1955. Still, if it’s a small e red tab has your find might still be worth buying.

A Study of Levi's Patches: 1967-1968. This guide gives you an overall view of the 8 essential details you should be looking for when determining the production date of vintage Levi's 501 jeans.
The iconic Levi’s red tab with a Big E.

3) Care tag

Inspect for a care tag, if you find one the jeans are post-mid-1970s. Be aware that fakes and Levi’s Vintage Clothing jeans can have both Big E and care tag.

4) Single stitch back pockets

Do the jeans have ‘single stitch’ back pockets, i.e. lock stitches and not chain stitches on the horisontal double felled seams on the top of the pockets? If this is the case, the jeans were produced before 1976 (roughly).

5) Rivets

Inspect the rivets. If the back pockets have hidden rivets (replaced by bartack around 1966) and if the back plates of the rivets are silver coloured with lowered letters the jeans are post-1966. If the back plates are copper it’s really getting interesting. And if the letters are raised and not lowered you are holding a pair of pre-1960s jeans, and chances are that you will get goosebumps all over.

6) Patch

Inspect the patch. A leather patch, contrary to the ‘leather-like’ cardboard patch, is an indicator that the jeans were produced before 1955.

7) Buttons

You have probably noticed by now, but the next thing you need to inspect is the front of the buttons. If it’s donut buttons with laurel leafs then the jeans were produced during WWII. This can be verified by painted arcuates (if still visible) and front pocket bags of varying fabrics, e.g. in green. These jeans are very hard to come by.

8) Cinch or no cinch

Another thing you probably noticed right away, if it’s there, is the back cinch. If there is one and everything above has been checked off, then the jeans are pre-1937. This can be verified by a crotch rivet at the base on the button fly. Most jeans this old are on the hands of either the Levi’s Archives or collectors.

Anything older than this, for instance without belt loops or with one back pocket only, is either lying around in the Nevada desert or locked up in a fire and earthquake proof safe, and will probably not be put up for sale for less that what you pay for a midsized car or a trip around the world.

Date of Vintage Levi's 501 Jeans

On page two, we take a closer look at the other details of these jeans and how they can help you determine their production product.

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