Were you keeping that old pair of 1970 bell bottoms or 1980’s Sasoon’s in the back of your closet hoping that they would come back in style? Well go ahead and pull them out because as usual, the style of vintage jeans is making its way back around the fashion scene and if you don’t have any, the thrift store is the best place to find them. From saggy ‘ Don’t go chasing waterfalls’ TLC jeans to high-waisted button-up styles vintage jeans are definitely back in style and some people note that they have never left.
Jeans like vintage Wranglers, Levi’s 501’s, and Jordache are now highly sought after and in some cases can cost a pretty penny. Vintage jeans can be super comfy and fit just right, especially the high-waisted ones! If you’re in the market for thrifting some vintage Sasson mom jeans then keep reading!
Where to find vintage jeans…
THRIFT vs SPECIALTY
When on the hunt for authentic vintage jeans you’ll have a little bit of deciding to do as you determine if you want to shop at a thrift or specialty store. Below I list some of the pro’s and con’s of shopping at each
Going to a thrift store for jeans is best if you are looking for a more cost-effective method of purchasing authentic vintage jeans.
Con: There is usually a ton of jeans to sort through. People dare a ton of stuff to sort through. If you’ve ever thrifted jeans then you’ll understand the overwhelm that can come with sorting through the sea of blue to discover the perfect pair. For many this may be a pro, so let’s just call it at procon, as some people truly enjoy the thrill of the hunt and most likely if you are an avid thrifter you fit into this category, however, if you’re short on time thrifting them may not be an option for you. If however, you are shopping online you can at least sort by designer.
Pro: There is usually a lot more to choose from! If you don’t mind sorting through a couple of racks full of jeans to see if there are any vintage gems on the rack then thrifting is going to be the best option for you. If you go into the shopping experience with little expectation of what you will find and quite a bit of patience you may be pleasantly surprised at what you can find.
Con: As I stated before, thrifting takes time, so if you don’t have a lot of this valuable resource consider a vintage specialty store
Pro: Thrift store jeans are usually less money, and I mean a LOT less money than a specialty vintage store. However, with the dawn of internet shops, many thrift stores have gotten on the reseller train and have raised prices tremendously to stay on par with many shops including higher-end shops.
Con: Usually vintage specialty shops have taken the chore out of rummaging for jeans or they have owners that consign and donate directly to them. So, they will cost a lot more and if it is a pair of jeans that are worth a couple hundred dollars per the market price, guaranteed this is what you are going to pay at a specialty shop, unless you catch a great sale.
Pro: Since vintage shops can charge a lot more for their items, they have the ability to offer a more curated, organized experience for their shoppers. This means a lot less time spent rummaging through racks and racks of jeans as there will most likely be a smaller supply organized by style and maybe even fit and wash.
Con: There is usually less to choose from, a lot less than a general thrift store will have to offer. As stated above this could be another procon since some people enjoy shopping in a less overwhelming store.
Pro: These items are usually cleaned and ready to wear which makes trying clothes on (if you are picky about trying things on in the thrift store) and immediately wearing your new jeans right off the rack a lot easier. Of course you will still want to ask
Pro: Another pro is that you can usually ask the owner about backstories and general information about the jeans, year, and period they are from. Unlike in a thrift store where employees probably won’t have the time or knowledge to go over these questions with you.
Where to find vintage jeans
Consignment specialty shops These are great to search for vintage jeans especially if they specialize in vintage jeans or clothes in general like Thrilling.
Similar to a consignment shop a vintage shop would be a great place to search for vintage jeans like Urban Outfitters vintage shop.
Thrift and Secondhand Stores
Check out your local thrift shop if you are open to searching for a while, Goodwills, Salvation Army’s, and Uniques are great places to start.
Some great online shops to find vintage jeans are Etsy, Beyond Vintage, and of course, eBay are great places to find vintage jeans at great prices.
Yardsales and Estate sales
Don’t turn a blind eye to your local yard and estate sale options. I’m going to include Facebook Market place in this list as well since it’s basically an online yard sale!
Finding your perfect pair…
You’ll need a little bit of know-how to determine if the pair of jeans you’ve found are truly authentic as many designers are taking note of the increased demand for vintage jeans are fashioning their newer releases after vintage jeans.
To ensure that you are getting an authentic pair keep these things in mind
Many times the cut on vintage jeans is a lot different from modern jeans. They are usually a lot roomier in the hip area and have a much higher rise, for example, a common rise on vintage jeans is about 13″ and modern jeans have an average rise of 8″. The jeans will usually come above your belly button as low-rise jeans weren’t much of a trend.
Also, most of the legs are straight cut, you may not find that much variety in cut.
Vintage jeans are usually pretty stiff and rigid as they don’t tend to have stretchy material like elastane woven into the fabric.
Most vintage jeans are higher quality than modern jeans and made with 100% cotton. This means that they are pretty durable and have an increased shelf-life, which is a great thing but this also means there will be little give to the jeans.
Most logos change over time and coincide with a specific period. Knowing which labels to look for is key to finding an authentic pair of vintage jeans. Keep the vintage fashion guild website on your phone when shopping so you can compare labels.
Outsourcing manufacturing wasn’t really much of a thing until the late 1970’s, so most vintage jeans are made in the U.S.A.
Many vintage jeans will have button closure or button-fly closures. Levi’s created it’s 501 jeans on May 20, 1873, with a button fly closure and zippers came into production in 1912 with them being sewn into Levis in 1947 per an article by purewow.com.
If the care label is in multiple languages your jeans are most likely not vintage
FOUR tips to finding the perfect pair
- One tip to finding the perfect jean is to know what wash you like prior to entering the thrift store, this cuts back on the time you have to spend rummaging around for the perfect pair. If you are specifically looking for stonewash jeans simply keep your eyes peeled for those jeans only
- Shop the men’s section. Depending on the decade and designer the fit and cut between men’s and women’s jeans are pretty similar.
- Go in knowing what shape you want. For instance, if you want boyfriend fit, baggy, straight leg, or mom jeans, that will help narrow down a bit as well
- Make an ISO post if you are seeking a very special pair of jeans, this is commonly done on Instagram, Poshmark, or Facebook Marketplace
The RULES OF VINTAGE JEAN SHOPPING
When you are shopping for vintage jeans there are some rules to live by and things that you must keep in mind to have success on your shopping trip.
1. Don’t go by size
Many times vintage jeans tend to run smaller, sometimes 4 times smaller than modern jeans. So, try them on if possible as you can’t always go by the sizes that we have today. Also, sizes can vary drastically between vintage styles depending on the decade they were made and the designer. Look for jeans that fit in the hips and thighs as that is generally the largest area on the body and the waist can always be taken in.
Don’t want to try jeans on in the store? Try the neck trick, wrap the waistband around your neck, and if the ends meet the jeans will likely fit. There are a couple of other things you can do if you decide you don’t want to try things on in the thrift store but want to know if the clothes you purchase will fit. Check them out here
2. Don’t expect stretch
Vintage denim doesn’t tend to have a lot of stretch, so don’t expect much give. Those of us that grew up in the era of vintage jeans understand the disappointment of finding a great pair of jeans but being unable to fit them due to the lack of stretch. But many times, this lack of stretch is the very reason why many people like vintage jeans because the elimination of stretchy materials like elastane usually help the jeans last a lot longer because let’s admit it, your jeggings aren’t going to last 20 to 50 years and still be in excellent shape like a ton of vintage jeans have.
3. Break them in
Expect a period of time to go pass by before your jeans are officially worn in and fit super comfortably. This is due to the lack of stretchy material and the thickness of authentic vintage jeans. If you purchase a pair that have been heavily worn you probably will not have to worry about the ‘breaking in’ period.
Big names in vintage jeans
A pair of vintage Levis 501xx jeans can cost anywhere from a couple dollars to thousands of dollars, you just have to know what to look for.
- Look for selvedge, if you find a pair of vintage 501 jeans and they are selvedge denim they were probably made before the mid-1980s
- Look at the tag, if there is a big E instead of a small e in the logo the jeans are pre-1955. Make sure the letters are lined perfectly and per Ropedeye.com, the red tab should only have lettering on one side.
- If your jeans have a care tag they are most likely made after 1970 also check to see if the care tag has the batwing label, if so they were probably produced after 1986
- Look at the stitching on the back pocket, if it is a single stitch they were made produced before 1978, a double lock stitch on the back pocket indicates a pair of 501’s from after 1978.
A great guide for Levi’s vintage jeans is Heddels
Jordache is now recreating older jeans as they had a surplus of authentic back pockets, if you want to read more about the process check out this article by sun sentinel
- Look for the signature horse-head logo on the back pocket
- They usually had a tapered ankle on pairs from the ’80s and slim fit, jeans from the late ’70s pairs have a slight flare
- The fabric is soft to the touch but little stretch
- Currently, Jordache has a vintage-inspired line that you can purchase from Walmart
- Maurice Sasson started his designer jeans company in 1976
- There will be a single “O” in the name and not two indicating Vidal Sassoon (Sasoon, Inc was actually sued by Vidal Sassoon in the late 1970’s – read more about the lawsuit)
- These jeans have very high rises usually and it isn’t likely that they would be inauthentic
- Look at the manufacturing company, if they were made in China they may be retro but not vintage
- Since Guess still uses the same label at times since their establishment in the 1980’s you will have to go by look, cut, and feel, For instance, flared jeans will most likely be from the 1990s since this is when they were in style
- If you find a pair of ‘authentic’ jeans it is not likely that they are fakes since they weren’t really duplicated much
- If you really want an authentic vintage pair of Guess jeans you can get them from their vintage resale shop, prices range from $75-$150
- Look for the blue bell as it is a distinct mark of vintage Wranglers
- Look for an ink printing effect on genuine Wranglers, imitation tend to use a logo that is pressed on with a machine
- Make sure there. is a tag on the inside of the fly
- Look for the iconic “W” on the pocket
Look for the label, it isn’t likely that these jeans will be imitation and they now sell for between $25-$75 depending on condition!
- Gucci jeans typically retail for $400 and up per pair and because of this the quality of the jeans will be impeccable. Look at the stitching to ensure that it is perfect, there should be no fraying or loose threads (even on well-kept vintage jeans).
- The feel of the jeans will be extremely soft
- Ensure everything is spelled correctly on the tag and that the stitching is straight
- Many of the older labels will have ‘G. Gucci’ in cursive writing on the label as opposed to just Gucci
Caring for your vintage jeans…
Vintage jeans age with every wash, which means some people choose to rarely wash them (some recommend once a year), if not washing your jeans regularly doesn’t sit well with you make sure you follow these tips:
1. Use cold water to wash to prevent unwanted shrinkage
2. Hang or air dry them instead of putting them in the dryer.
3. Your local dry cleaners may be your best bet when trying to extend the length of the your vintage jeans
hole & stainS
If you happen to get a hole in your jeans or find a perfect pair while out thrifting but it seems stained beyond repair, don’t fret look into one of these things
1. If the hole is along the seams that is an easy fix, (you can do it yourself if you have a sewing machine that can efficiently get through jean material) and a seamstress or tailor can fix them like new. Levi’s even has their own tailor shop.
2. If you’re up for using a patch on your jeans do so. There are awesome one’s you can use like these on Etsy
3. If the stain or rip is towards the bottom of the pants roll them and make a cuff, it’s on trend right now and if even if it wasn’t it would still look cute! If it won’t hurt your heart too much to cut them, you can make shorter jeans or just cut them into shorts.
4. Most jeans have rips and tears in them, ripping them more to make them look like stylish distressed jeans may just be the thing you need to feel comfortable wearing the pair out.
5. Get them custom painted if the stain is large, won’t easily come out, or ruins the look of the jeans.
Stumbling across a great pair of vintage jeans can be a dream come true for many, hopefully this guide helped identifying and caring for them a little easier!