The Levi’s 501 family is growing.
Levi’s heritage 501 jeans have been remastered in multiple iterations throughout the brand’s 140 years: Last year, there was the launch of the 501 CT, cut with a tapered leg and a roomier waist and stretch styles were introduced in September, an update that took a year-and-a-half of fabric development to produce. (Levi’s 501s have historically been staunchly nonstretch.)
The newest addition, set to hit stores and levi.com in December, is the 501 Skinny, offered for men and women in a variety of vintage washes ranging from $78 to $168. Keeping true to 501’s roots, the jean comes with a button-fly and a nostalgic, slightly distressed look.
Jonathan Cheung, Levi’s senior vice president, global head of design, said the second most requested alteration in Levi’s stores was a tapering of 501 jeans, so the launch of the 501 Skinny was a relative no-brainer.
But don’t call it a jegging. “It’s as skinny as it relates to a 501, but it’s not like a legging. It’s not superelastic or stretchy; it’s just a very slimmed-down 501,” Cheung explained. “The women’s fit is a high-rise — not too high — and hugs the hips. It has that magical inverted heart shape at the back, so it lifts you up, and it’s snug through the sides, tapering down to the ankles.”
The women’s style will be offered in two types of denim — Levi’s traditional, nonstretch denim and the new shrink-to-fit stretch denim, which has a little more give, but isn’t skintight.
Though wide-legged silhouettes and cropped flares have been popular in the denim market — Levi’s offers an array of those silhouettes, too — Cheung said the skinny jean is here to stay. “It’s basically the new normal,” he said. “It’s really good for showing off your footwear, whether sneakers or flat sandals or a pair of wicked heels. It’s very versatile. With the 501 skinny, it’s this new type of skinny: It’s not a stretchy jegging; it’s something in-between.…We see this movement and desire for additional choices beyond the jegging type of skinny.”
The reworked denim craze — a trend that brands such as Vetements, Off-White and Los Angeles-based Re/Done denim brand continue to bank on — was another impetus behind the launch.
“We’re taking the guesswork out of buying a pair of vintage Levi’s and going to a tailor, or paying hundreds of dollars for a designer pair of re-worked Levi’s,” Cheung said. “That some brands can take an old pair of Levi’s jeans that have already had a life, add their own touches on it, and resell it on for much greater value than the original pair….I think that’s an incredible testament to the longevity of Levi’s,” Cheung said. “And a testament to sustainability, upcycling, fashion relevancy and the kind of affection people hold Levi’s in. We’re flattered.”