The Men’s Guide to Levi’s Jeans: Which Style Is Right for You?

The Mens Guide To Levis Jeans Featured

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 505: Regular Fit

The 505 is one of the best-selling Levi’s jeans for men. It fits much like the 501, sitting at the waist with slightly more room in the thigh. It’s a straight fit throughout the leg. If you love the feel of the 501, but want a zip fly instead, this is the style to go with.

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 some, 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. If you’re just starting your style journey, this is a great starting point that’ll lead to 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. It’s made for a more athletic build and designed for optimal comfort. It gives you both a straight leg and a regular fit through the thighs.

The 517: Slim Fit Bootcut

While many argue whether bootcut jeans are stylish or not, if you love wearing cowboy boots or the standard straight leg feels too tight with boots on, the 517 is the fit to try. You’ll get a slim fit like the 511, but the leg opening at the bottom gives you a few extra inches over a regular fit. Bootcut isn’t for everyone, so try a pair to see how they look on your frame.

If you love a bootcut jean, but prefer a low-rise fit at the waist, try the 527 instead. These fit almost the same as the 517, but with a lower waist.

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.

The 550: Relaxed Fit Tapered Leg

The 550 is best suited to men who are a little bigger in the thigh and leg (aka big and tall) and need some extra room. For slimmer men, you might feel like you’re swimming in these. But, for heavier guys and thick muscular builds, you’ll love the looser fit. These sit comfortably at the waist and taper at the leg. As a reference, the leg opening is a little wider than a bootcut, so that tells you these are a baggier fit.

The 559: Relaxed Fit Straight Leg

The 559 is almost identical to the 550 except they sit just below the waist and have a straight leg. If you’re not found of the tapered leg or you’re shorter and the tapered leg bunches, the straight leg will fit much better.

The 569: Loose Fit Straight Leg

The 569 probably isn’t the best style for most men unless you just want pure comfort. They fit below the waist with a straight leg. There’s extra room in the back and thigh areas. However, they do tend to look baggier, especially on thinner men. These might work best for construction work or something similar where you need comfort and optimal movement.

Levi’s used to have a 560 fit, which was the same as the 569, but with a tapered leg, but these have been discontinued.

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.

Usually, you’ll wear the exact same number for jeans and chinos. The 514 is a great starting point as it’s kind of a middle ground between most of the fit styles. However, never feel like you have to stick with one style. Whether it’s for comfort or your body changing, check out different fits to see what works best.

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the best Levi's jeans color?

Part of this is personal preference. However, darker jeans work well for dressier casual situations. Lighter jeans are a universal color. If you’re a bigger guy, opt for darker Levi’s as they make you look slimmer.

How can I make my Levi's last longer?

While you can score a quality pair of Levi’s for $50-$70, you still want them to last for years. The way you treat them determines how long they’ll actually last. Use our guide to learn how to extend the life of your jeans.

What if Levi's don't fit me well?

Levi’s jeans might be popular, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s going to find the perfect fit. The good news is you can still score stylish jeans at an affordable price. Try out these value brands for budget-friendly alternatives to Levi’s.

Image credit: Mnz via Unsplash

Crystal Crowder

Crystal's spent over 15 years as a tech geek who writes about everything from gadgets to lifestyle and everything in between. She not only wants to live her best life, but help others do the same.