I'm a bonafide Levi's junkie. I love their hearty ply. I'm enthralled by the unique fading each pair develops over time and use. They make my butt look good, they're sexy and tomboy-ish in the same breath, and they're thoroughly American. A single pair of Levi's can embody multiple style statements in a single look. What's not to love?! But finding the perfect pair can be daunting and not because of scarcity, but because of ubiquity. Countless retailers offering gradations of that vintage authenticity make finding the Levi's of your dreams a bit confusing. I've done the leg work to build my collection of classic blues. Here's where they are and how to get what you want:
THRIFT STORES: Like shooting fish in a barrel, the men's section of your local thrift store will have tons of worn in relics to choose from. Try on possibilities knowing most won't work. Be vigilant in 'ass'essing your rear view (see what I did there?), but keep an open mind about the possibility of an easy alter. Could a fraying trim to to the legs be the answer? Could they work as cutoffs? Being in the habit of regularly (and quickly) scouting my local thrift stores has paid off several times with perfect 501s for less that $10.
EBAY has thousands of options available with countless ways to filter your search. Pay close attention to the 'actual measurements' vs. the 'on label' measurements as Levi's shrink and stretch differently according to who's worn them and how they've been cared for. I've had some success, but my advice is to buy from a seller who accepts returns should they not work out.
RETAIL: Retailers like Urban Outfitters, Free People, and Nasty Gal (not to mention Levi's themselves) offer brand new versions of 'vintage' Levi's. The CT line is a recreation of the 501 classic with a modernized fit and tons washes that mimic genuine fading. I've not been lucky; waist/inseam measurements aren't usually correct and the new fit isn't as comfortable as the older. But I'm tall (5'11'), and most regularly cut jeans don't work for me anyway.
REDONE: A mind-blowing curation of actual vintage Levi's, Redone slightly reworks old jeans for a sexy modern fit. A nip here, a tuck there; these jeans retain their authenticity but achieve high-fashion street-cool levels of accentuation for a womans' curves. The fading and destruction is genuine (probably achieved by roadies and construction workers circa 1980s), but the altered fit is pure design. For most of us we'll have to shop online at Redone; lucky other can find them at Barney's and at brick and mortars in LA and NYC.