The Levi’s 501 CT: High Rise Selvedge Denim

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Everyone knows that I’m a big proponent of high rise trousers.  They make you look slimmer and make your legs look longer; you can’t lose while wearing them!  However, you can’t wear trousers everyday.  Even I don’t do that.  There are days when I wear jeans, but I seldom wear them with tailored clothing (button ups, jackets, etc) due to the fact that most jeans out there have a super low rise.  I had tried on some vintage denim that had a high-rise but it was way out of price range. However Levis came through with the 501 CT line, which have become my go to jean.

The 501 CT

Levis has been the go to American jean for many people out there.  They stock vintage style ones, based on actual designs from the vault, along with a variety of fits and fabrics that are sure to please any customer.  The 501 is their signature fit, which is cut in a classic straight leg and button fly  to appeal to everyone.  Spencer wore his with a vintage sweater in last year’s Christmas post.

Now there are plenty of denim companies out there that make high quality jeans; Naked and Famous is one of them.  However, my requirements for jeans were simple: they had to be dark indigo, selvedge, be slim, and have a high rise.  The 501 line had these qualities, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the straight look.  I also wasn’t a fan of the rise; they were mid-rise but I wanted something that reached my bellybutton.  Then I found the 501 CT line thanks to posts by Mike from MFA. 

The 501 CT line is basically the 501 with a taper (the CT stands for “custom tapered”).  Additionally, the site says that the rise on the CT is higher (11.5 inches) and sports a longer fly, which are the tell-tale signs of a high rise pant.  The Levi’s website only had a “mossy” selvedge which was a bit too green for my taste, so I saved up and bought a pair from Club Monaco, which had the 501 CT in dark indigo STF selvedge! 

The Jeans and Soaking

I was able to buy the jeans in person, as there was a Club Monaco next to my work!  Being raw selvedge denim, they were a bit tougher than any other jean I had worn before.  Makes sense as the skinny jeans that I wore from Pacsun and Hot Topic all had some form of spandex for stretch/comfort.  I had also never owned anything selvedge before.  For those of you who don’t know, selvedge is a high quality denim that has a denser weave and has a “self edge”.  You can read more about it here.  The fact that it was raw denim would mean that there were no prefabricated fades; my fades from bending, squatting, or having my phone in my pocket would come naturally over time!

To be honest, I felt that the jeans were a bit looser than expected. I am a 32×30 but I had to buy a 31×32 because the 32 waist kept sliding off.  The longer inseam also helped because I decided to use the Shrink to Fit method to make the pants more fitted to my legs even though the leg opening was around 6.75 (a full inch smaller than my dress pants).  To do the Shrink to Fit, I basically followed the guide on Primer to the letter.

Pre-Soaking

Soaking in the tub

Wearing them out in the sun to dry!

Post Shrink Fit

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Here are the jeans after shrinking! They don’t look too different, but they definitely feel a bit more snug on the thigh area.  The jeans also shrank in length quite a bit, so the cuffs didn’t need to be rolled more than once.  As I wore them more and more, the more they softened up and conformed to my legs.  I’m sure the results wouldn’t have changed too much if I had decided not to soak the jeans, but I decided to do it anyway since this was my first pair of raw denim!

Styling the Jeans

Wearing jeans aren’t hard; they’ve been a staple of fashion for a long time, whether it’s workwear, casual, or even #menswear.  The ones that I bought are indigo rinse which is the most versatile color you could possibly get!  As a result, I decided to create three different outfits to showcase the jeans. You can definitely think of more than what I came up with as jeans go with everything! These are just a typical outfit that I would do with denim.

Vintage Casual/Workwear

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A tee shirt is one of the natural partners for denim.  However there was a small challenge, since these jeans aren’t skinny; I couldn’t look like I normally do when I wear jeans and a tee.  Instead of doing something vaguely streetwear, I took a page from my vintage style and went “vintage casual” or “workwear”.  Fitted striped tees are pretty normal for the 1940s and 1950s, and young guys definitely wore them tucked into their slim/straight jeans!   The fitted tee works well with the slim/straight high rise denim, almost echoing my preferred suiting style: fitted jackets with a semi-full cut pant!

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I have a huge love affair with vintage jackets and I collect them frequently, even though I live in Southern California. This 1950s/1960s varsity jacket was one of my pickups when I went on my trip to San Francisco; it was purchased from my friend Sam Simmons, owner of Over Attired Vintage! I love that this jacket has a collar that you can prop up instead of the typical ribbed ones that you normally see on varsity jackets.

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Back details: stuff that you can only find on vintage!

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It’s not something I wear often, but workwear is definitely cool! In retrospect, I would’ve made it more authentic with a deeper cuff!

Tee shirt from the Philippines(?), 501 Cts, Frye Boots, vintage jacket 

#Menswear

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Bloggers everywhere say that “jeans aren’t just casual; you can dress them up”!  While I tend to hate on typical #menswear guys, they’re right about this.  However I still stand by these 501Cts and recommend that you get a slim-straight jean instead of something super skinny. When worn with a textured wool jacket, striped spearpoint, and dotted tie, the denim is a perfect alternative , replacing the expected high-rise flannel or tweed trousers.  It’s a great transitional fall outfit!

The reason I call this #menswear is because I find that its very typical of what those types of guys tend to wear with their denim. My elitist view is holds no water since this outfit is very nice look that is perfect for business casual outfits!  Even the Armoury guys do it! 

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Use of dark, subtle colors are perfect for fall style.

Note that while these are jeans, they sit right near my belly button.  This prevents the shirt from peaking out under the suit jacket.  Another great reason to get high-rise! 

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Wool/Cashmere suit jacket from Suit Supply, Custom Shirt from Natty Shirts, 1930’s Tie, 

501 CTs, Suede shoes from Zara 

Going Ivy IMG_8678

If you can’t tell from my latest posts, I’ve become enamored with Ivy style.  Button down collars, patterned jackets, and white socks + loafers really exude that 1960’s fashion! I decided to finish off this post with a modern take on the look.  Since its fall, I wore a patterned “pseudo-casseninto wool” jacket with my custom blue OCBD and knit tie.  Like my previous outfit, there is a play on textures, with the pill-y wool and silk knit interacting with the rough denim.  The colors are also very fall, when an emphasis on earth tones (blue, green, and brown).

Note that in this outfit, the jeans serve as an alternative to the chinos, which are favored by ivy-preppy-trad enthusiasts.  Jeans were definitely worn back in the 1960s, but I think that my cuffed style adds a bit of modern rugged/workwear vibe to the otherwise ivy outfit.

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Note the collar roll.  

Note that the outfit is much more “plain” than the previous one.  The previous outfit had a striped shirt and dotted tie, this one has a patterned jacket but a plain shirt and tie.  Having these solid items help tie down the loudness of the jacket!  Ivy (and the much more conservative  trad) typically don’t wear too many patterns at once.  Back in the day, ivy guys opted for patterned jackets and solid ties instead of going crazy with patterns like their grandfathers in the 1930.  With a jacket like this, I would follow the 60’s example and wear solid shirts and ties.

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For shoes, I decided to go with black penny loafers and white socks to add more contrast within the outfit.  Penny loafers are a very ivy/preppy shoe choice and help make this particular outfit more casual than the previous one (where I wore lace-up derbies).  Plus, loafers are much more comfortable and easy to wear!

Jacket from Massimo Dutti, Custom OCBD from Natty Shirts,

Vintage Silk Knit Tie, 501 CTs, Thrifted AE Penny Loafers 

Conclusion

Dark indigo jeans are a staple of everyone’s outfit.  Whether you prefer modern fashion, workwear, or vintage ivy, jeans go with everything.  If you’re going to get some, I really recommend the 501 CTs.  They are high rise, which I love, and have a nice taper to make them perfect for casual or formal-esque outfits.  Hell, combine the two and have a smart casual outfit.

The selvedge and raw denim details  aren’t necessary, but it is definitely a step up from normal jeans.  As I wrote before, selvedge is a mark of high quality; it also prevents the denim from unraveling and fraying.  The fact that it is raw denim means that there are no pre-made fades or distressing on the jean.  Instead, they will come as you wear them and in the end, they will be yours.  

I hope you enjoyed this article! If you want to take the leap and ditch low rise skinny jeans and opt for something much more old school, get your Levi 501 CTs! You can check out the Levi’s website or get your own raw denim, STF, selvedge one from Club Monaco! I really suggest the later, as these jeans have really gotten softer and accustomed to my legs.  The original tough texture and shrinking process took some getting used to, but I now have my own personal pair of jeans! Plus they’re high rise; what can beat that?

Always a pleasure,

Ethan W.

Street x Sprezza

Photography by Scott E., Vince H., and Spencer O.  

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