Old school stiff blue jeans: do they still exist?


Starting Member
Call this a nostalgia quest, but when I was growing up, blue jeans were very blue and very stiff until they had been washed a few times. I remember they almost felt abrasive, like sandpaper, for those first few wears. As they aged naturally they became softer and acquired a natural fade. I think that I usually ended up with Levi's with a zip fly. I don't wear blue jeans that often now (preferring khakis for casual wear) but would like to pick up a pair. I don't care about fashion jeans, and don't want to pay more than $75. Every pair of jeans that I see in stores seem to be soft and pre-washed (most also pre-faded). I made a cursory run through a Levis store, and still could not find the stiff blue jeans of my lost youth. Are the old school jeans still to be found ? Thanks, John


New Member
I actually saw a selection of the old-school "shrink-to-fit" Levis in Macy's, I think it was, this past weekend. I'd try the regular department stores first. And, if there's a Levis store in an outlet near you, you're golden, I think.


Senior Member
I second the recommendation for Levi's 501 shrink to fits. And for $75 you can pick up two pair and have some change leftover.


Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Shrink to fit are nice in that...well, they are for shrinking to fit. But they still aren't very stiff..

I'm looking for such a pair myself, something I can wear in and make truly mine. Had enough of the pre-washed and pre-faded stuff. I'll be keeping an eye on this thread!


Elite Member
When I worked at a library, I had an older colleague who noticed my interest in fashion, and he offered me some of his clothes accumulated as a young man/man. He let the garments go real cheap. The most memorable garment was a pair of bona fide Levi's jeans from the 50s or 60s. $10.00. Wow, was that denim tough! I've always, always found jeans uncomfortable; never cared wearing them because they do feel like sandpaper rubbing against the legs, and they were totally uncomfortable. In addition, they were one size too small (sz. 30, I'm 32). The combination of cardboard-like material and suppression made my but look totally flat, so I soon sold the vintage jeans to the local Buffalo Exchange.


Super Member
At ~$150, they are about twice what you want to spend, but, given what you're looking for, it's hard to beat APC New Standards.

rick lombardo

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Try "Blue in Green" in Soho
Great selection of heavy weight stiff denim from Japan.
I purchased a pair last year in 19oz denim and soaked them in the tub before I hemed them. It may take a year or 2 to break in but I love them and for that old 50's look. Crazy money though.


Sartorial Sultan<br> Moderator, Trad Forum
Take a look at the Sugar Canes and also Levi's rigids. If you really want to get into it swing by the Style Forum Streetwear & Denim forum. You'll find answers to questions you never imagined.


Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Stiff jeans are typically what is known as "raw denim", as opposed to that which has been pre-washed. I think it is great. In fact, I buy it almost exclusively. However, there are some downsides.

1. Raw denim often will bleed onto light colored fabrics such as your white sofa, so you have to be careful with them.

2. If the denim is not sanforized, it will shrink significantly after washing. I strongly recommend not buying unsanforized denim unless you really know what you are doing.

3. The typical approach to raw denim involves not washing them for an extensive period of them such as six months, so that when you do finally wash them, they end up with a fade pattern that is custom to you. This may or may not be to your taste, but if you wash the jeans like normal, they'll fade, etc. and won't retain the clean, dark look I like. I've been told dry cleaning is an alternative.

I'd go checkout the Streetwear and Denim forum at styleforum.net where you'll find a whole other set of clothing obsession.


Starting Member
I second the A.P.C. new Standard's. About as plain of a jean as you can get with great denim. These are the jeans that we remember as kids. Don't let the price put you off. I am 39 and cringe when I see someone my age wearing trendy or "fashionable" denim. You won't get this with APC. They are cut slim so size up if you like a fuller fit.


Super Member
How much do "shrink to fit" 501's cost? I hope not the $150 for the APC's (out of my range, but I did try them on in NYC and was tempted). But still, >$100 for jeans? It doesn't seem right. I just don't have the time and patience to break in 501's, but do remember loving the pair I once owned.


Active Member with Corp. Privileges
APC New Standards are an extremely skinny jean. You have to be the right shape to wear them. Even at 5'10", 150lbs, I prefer the regular fit Rescues. Also, the APC's are known for stretching quite a bit, so you need to size down significantly. It can be difficult to get the sizing right unless you work with a retailer who really knows their stuff (like Context in Madison)


Senior Member
How much do "shrink to fit" 501's cost? I hope not the $150 for the APC's (out of my range, but I did try them on in NYC and was tempted). But still, >$100 for jeans? It doesn't seem right. I just don't have the time and patience to break in 501's, but do remember loving the pair I once owned.

501 shrink to fits run about $35.

I tried the APCs, and the denim is nicer than the levis, but they are lower rise (bad for a tall guy like me) and ultimately not worth the extra cost, especially as I like the look of unwashed denim and would have a hard time justifying a new pair of APCs every year (whereas with the 501s...)

And FWIW, the 501s, after the first wash (i wore them in the shower and scrubbed them with soap before letting them dry outside) felt plenty stiff and scratchy. (Again, this goes away with wear though).


Active Member with Corp. Privileges
It appears that most of the stiff/ raw denims are no longer woven in the US. Most of the higher quality ones come from Japan. They don't come cheap though.

From my readings over at styleforums, it appears that there are very few American brands that make good quality raw denims. Levi's are decent jeans for the price but hardly anything like the vintage levi's of yesteryear.

For $75, you might be able to acquire a pair of Uniqlos raw selvage. GAP has also released a version of raw indigo jeans that might suit those looking at the lower price points. Crate denims uses 1970s US vintage denim fabric for their jeans. They run about $130-$150 and are made in the country where denim was born.

Dry jeans are prized for the customised look but they may be uncomfortable to break in, slightly tight, and may bleed in the first several months. One should also be able to tolerate not washing their jeans for extended period of time.


Starting Member
Tough to do at that price range. I'd suggest saving up and going old school with a pair of Levi's Vintage Clothing jeans. I like the 1947 model. Try cultizm.com.


Senior Member
I haven't tried them but what about work jeans like Dickies brand?
Some have a heavy 14oz weight.
I also like stiff jeans so I line dry them instead of the dryer for that reason and they last longer. I would like a heavier weight material than the jeans I own but there aren't too many companies that have loose jeans that aren't baggy in my size.
I buy Sonoma brand jeans from Kohls. They're loose enough in the seat and legs without being baggy. They're a decent not heavy weight and they have a dark blue option. These aren't fashion jeans and cost $25 or less.


Senior Member
If you are looking for stiff jeans the Samurai s5000vx 21oz stand on their own.

Very interesting. I do like the idea of having jeans almost as tough as me.
But at $200+ a pair for Samurais I'd buy a pair of my regular jeans and have another pair sewn inside as a liner to get nearly the same effect.
They would be twice as stiff, twice as tough, twice the thickness and just plain old dopy looking would be the result I'm sure.

Thanks for sharing. I didn't know fabric that thick was available for jeans.
I'll do a search and see if some place locally has something that thick in a style that works for me.
I've thought about buying a big sheet of drop cloth canvas and have a tailor make some pants for me. I'm sure it would be dopier than double layered denim jeans.
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