Levi’s Vintage Clothing 501 Shrink-To-Fit: Wash and Wear Guide

 In Apparel

Get it right! How to shrink your 501 jeans

If you’ve ever bought a pair of LVC’s rigid American made shrink-to-fit jeans you’ll probably be familiar with the challenging decision it is to choose the right size. Especially before we’re talking $250 jeans.

In addition to finding the right fit for your body type and your style, be it the looser cut 1955 or a slimmer 1954, one of the most crucial aspects of making the “right” choice is the consideration whether you’ll wash your jeans or not.

We’ve touched upon the topic numerous times (have a look at our comprehensive guide here), but now Levi’s also stepped it up and put together three short, informative and entertaining animated videos about the three ways you can choose to go; keeping your jeans unwashed, soaking them in the tub or machine washing.

Keep ’em rigid: Never Wash your LVC Jeans

Some of you like to wear your shrink-to-fits without ever washing. That’s cool, but you’ll have to remember that never washing really means never washing. You can dry clean as a final way out should you end up getting your jeans dirty (which you probably will). Arguably, the wear effect on a bone dry rigid jean will give the most dramatic look, whether it’s the most authentic look is another discussion. To remove odor Levi’s suggest that spraying your jeans with vinegar when they’re airing might help. Yet the easiest way around it is probably just hanging your jeans outside in dry weather for a few days. Nevertheless, despite what Levi’s are saying throwing your jeans in the freezer won’t do any good.

Sizing your Shrink-to-fits the never-wash way

If you plan to not wash your shrink-to-fits, buy them one size smaller in the waist and in your true length. After a few wears the waist will stretch to your size. Remember that shrink-to-fits are generally labelled with the actual inch measurement after shrinkage. For detailed information on the five best selling fits consult our guide on the topic.

Dip in the tub: The original shrink-to-fit way

The second and “original” way around getting the perfect fit is putting them on, climbing into a filled bathtub, and letting them soak on your body for up to half an hour. After you’ve drained the tub, squeeze the excess water from your legs and get outside in the sunshine to dry the jeans into your shape. Alternatively you can bend and stretch while wearing them indoors until you can carefully slip out of them and hang them to dry in your shower stall. When your jeans get dirty, simply climb back into the bathtub and wash with a little soap.

Sizing your Shrink-to-fits the original way

If you plan to shrink your 501s in the bathtub, buy your true waist size (once again, tagged waist size refers to post-shrinkage measurements) and size up two in length. After shrinking your jeans in the bathtub, remember to stretch the waist back out while they’re still wet; this will help achieve a slimmer silhouette.

Wash ’em good: Machine wash before wearing

To Americans the shrink-to-fit concept is nothing new. The way most of them have been shrinking their 501s for decades is by washing them thoroughly before they start wearing them. Wash your 501s inside out at 86° F / 30° C. Levi’s recommends you not to tumble-dry as it’ll shrink the denim too much. Dry in the open air if you can, or hang them in a warm place until the denim is crispy dry. Long-term shrinkage will occur over several washes.

Sizing your Shrink-to-fits the machine wash way

If you plan to wash your 501s before you start wearing them, buy two sizes bigger in both waist and length.

For more advice read our guide.

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