Levi’s 550 Vs. 501 Jeans: A Detailed Comparison

Levi’s 550 and 501 are two of the most popular jean fits from Levi’s. With over 100 years of history behind them, both fits have become wardrobe staples for generations of denim lovers.

But with the proliferation of jean styles in recent years, many shoppers find themselves wondering – what exactly is the difference between Levi’s 550 and 501? Which one is right for me?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down the key distinctions between these two iconic Levi’s jean fits. We’ll compare their fits, rises, leg openings, and more so you can determine which style best suits your needs.

Whether you’re a first-time Levi’s buyer or a denim aficionado, read on to become an expert in the nuances of Levi’s 550 and 501!

A Brief Comparison Table

Before we dive into the details, here is a quick overview of how Levi’s 550 and 501 fits compare:

FeatureLevi’s 550Levi’s 501
Leg OpeningWiderSlimmer
Front StylingNo whiskers or fadingIconic whiskers and fading

As you can see, while both are classic straight leg jeans, the 550 has a more generous, loose fit while the 501 is more old-school and slimming. The choice between the two comes down to personal preference on fit.

Key Differences Between Levi’s 550 And 501 Jeans

Now, let’s explore each of these differences in more detail.

Fit & Cut

The most noticeable difference between the 550 and 501 is in the overall fit.

  • Levi’s 550 Fit
Levi's 550 Jeans
Levi’s 550 Jeans

The 550 has a relaxed, loose fit through the hips and thighs.

It sits lower on the waist and has a fuller seat and thigh.

The leg opening is wider, creating a casual, laidback look.

The 550 is sometimes called Levi’s “dad jean” thanks to its roomy fit.

It offers maximum comfort and flexibility while still retaining a flattering silhouette.

  • Levi’s 501 Fit

The 501 has a classic straight leg fit. It sits at the natural waist and is roomy through the hip and thigh without being overly baggy. The leg tapers slightly from the knee to ankle for a lean, streamlined look.

Compared to the 550, the 501 has a more tailored appearance that flatters the body’s natural shape. It provides a slim but not tight fit through the seat and thighs.

So in summary, the 550 has a loose, roomy fit while the 501 is more fitted and slimming. The 550 prioritizes comfort and ease of movement, while the 501 creates a flattering contour through the hips and legs.


In addition to the fit through the hips and legs, Levi’s 550 and 501 also differ slightly in the rise.

  • 550 Rise

The 550 has a mid rise, meaning it sits below the natural waist, around hip level on most men. The mid rise provides enough coverage in the rear without coming up past the belly button.

  • 501 Rise
Levi's 501 Jeans
Levi’s 501 Jeans

The 501 is designed with a higher rise that hits at the natural waist.

There is ample coverage in the back along with a little more front coverage than the 550.

The 501’s high rise offers vintage appeal along with excellent rear lift and support.

Meanwhile, guys who don’t like jeans that come up too high may prefer the 550’s lower mid rise.

Leg Opening

Let’s move further down the jeans to the leg opening, which is where the 550 and 501 have their most pronounced difference.

  • 550 Leg Opening

With its relaxed fit, the 550 has a wide leg opening that measures 17-18 inches around. This roomy opening can easily accommodate boots or athletic shoes.

The generous leg opening results in a laidback, chilled out aesthetic. It’s a great choice for casual weekends and relaxed styles.

  • 501 Leg Opening

As a classic straight leg jean, the 501 has a leg opening of approximately 15 inches. This slimmer opening gently hugs the ankle for a put-together look.

Compared to the 550, the 501’s leg opening is noticeably more tapered. It neatly showcases footwear and gives the jeans a groomed appearance.

So if you like the stacked jeans look, the 550 is for you. But if you prefer jeans with some taper around the ankle, the 501 is a better option.


Continuing our head-to-toe comparison, let’s examine the thigh region of these two Levi’s fits.

  • 550 Thighs
Levi's 550 Jeans
Levi’s 550 Jeans

In keeping with its overall relaxed fit, the 550 has loose, comfortable thighs.

With plenty of room through the upper legs, these jeans move with you easily.

The roomy thigh makes the 550 a great choice for athletic builds or anyone who prefers more space rather than a skin-tight fit.

You’ll never feel restricted when sitting, squatting, or being active in these jeans.

  • 501 Thighs

The 501 has a trimmer cut through the thighs. While not super tight, the 501 sits closer to the body for a streamlined look.

Compared to the 550, the 501’s thigh feels more fitted and tailored. The slimmer thigh showcases the shape of the leg from all angles.

So the looser 550 allows maximum thigh mobility, while the 501 creates definition through a contoured thigh. Choose the 550 if you have muscular thighs or value comfort, and opt for the 501 for a leaner, sculpted silhouette.


Levi’s 550 and 501 fits also differ slightly in terms of rear coverage and lift.

  • 550 Rear

With its full seat and hips, the 550 completely covers the derriere. The mid rise and loose fit through the hips provide full rear coverage without being too saggy or baggy.

While not as lifted as some jeans, the 550 still maintains a nice, rounded rear silhouette. The seat has plenty of room for movement and comfort.

  • 501 Rear

The 501’s higher rise and straight fit creates lift in the backside region. The rear is fully covered but looks more taut and streamlined.

Compared to the curvier 550, the 501 has a flatter, firmer seat. The jeans lift the glutes for an instantly perkier look.

The 550 maximizes comfort with a full, natural seat, while the 501 adds contour for a little extra lift. So it comes down to your preferences for rear coverage and shape.

Front Styling

When viewing the front of these jeans, the 501’s iconic whiskering and fading is an instantly recognizable feature. Meanwhile, the 550 comes in solid, raw denim hues.

  • 550 Front Styling

The 550 eschews whiskers, fading, and distressing for a clean, dark denim look. Without embellished creases and wear patterns, the 550 can be dressed up easier.

  • 501 Front Styling

The 501 is known for its signature whiskering and fading around the hips, thighs, and pockets. This strategically placed fading and whiskering creates flattering definition.

So the 550 offers versatility and polish with its lack of whiskers and fading. But the 501’s iconic touches are quintessential decorations on America’s original blue jeans.


While prices fluctuate, on average you can expect to pay:

  • Levi’s 550: $60-$80
  • Levi’s 501: $50-$70

The 550 tends to retail for slightly more than the 501. However, both are reasonably priced, especially when found at discount.

Which Jeans To Pick?

Levi's 501 Jeans
Levi’s 501 Jeans

When choosing between the Levi’s 550 and 501, consider your priorities for fit, rise, leg opening, and styling details.

The 550 has an ultra-comfortable, relaxed straight fit.

With its roomy thighs, fuller seat, and wide leg opening, it offers maximum mobility and a laidback look.

The 501 is a straight slim fit jean with just the right amount of room through the hips and thighs.

A taut seat, tapered leg, and iconic whiskering give it a contoured, polished appearance.

Both are wardrobe staples that will provide years of quality wear. But small nuances like rise, thigh room, and whiskering details can make all the difference in achieving your perfect pair of jeans.

Hopefully this detailed overview has helped illuminate the key differences between Levi’s most legendary denim fits. Whether you opt for the relaxed 550 or the slim 501, you’ve chosen an all-American classic.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the difference between Levi 501 and 550 fit?

The main difference is that the 501 has a straight, slimmer fit while the 550 has a looser, relaxed straight fit. The 501 sits at the natural waist, with streamlined hips and thighs that taper slightly at the ankle. Meanwhile, the mid-rise 550 has a roomier fit through the seat and thighs, with a wider leg opening.

What does 550 mean in Levi’s?

The 550 is one of Levi’s numeric jean fit codes. The numbers in Levi’s fits refer to a system for categorizing the different cuts and styles. The first digit indicates the fit type, while the second two digits designate specific design details like rise, thigh width, and leg opening.
So the 5 in 550 means it’s part of the Levi’s Loose Fit family. The last two digits (50) denote the particular specifications that make the 550 a relaxed straight leg fit.

What Levi’s are similar to 550?

Some other Levi’s fits that have a similar relaxed straight leg cut as the 550 include:
a) 559: An updated, modern version of the classic 550 with added stretch for comfort.
b) 527: A slim bootcut fit that shares the roomy seat and thighs of the 550 but tapers more dramatically at the knee.
c) 560: With its extreme taper, the 560 has a thigh and hip fit close to the 550 but a much narrower leg opening.
d) 505: This regular fit has a straight leg that’s between the 501 and 550 in terms of slimness. Not as baggy as the 550 but roomier than the 501.
So while no other Levi’s are exactly the same as the iconic 550, these fits come closest in terms of a relaxed fit through the hips and thighs.

What is the difference between Levi’s 550 and 541?

The 541 is one of Levi’s athletic fits designed specifically for men with muscular builds. Compared to the 550:
1. The 541 has more room and stretch through the thighs and seat to accommodate bigger leg muscles.
2. The leg opening tapers more from the knee to ankle for a clean, modern look.
3. The 541 sits slightly lower on the hips but still provides decent rear coverage.
4. The denim contains stretch fibers (1-3% elastane) for greater flexibility.
So in summary, the 541 is excellent for guys with athletic lower bodies who want a jeans designed specifically for muscular proportions. It’s more tapered than the 550. The 550 has a casual relaxed fit in 100% denim for maximum durability.

Final Thoughts

In the world of men’s fashion, Levi’s 501 and 550 remain iconic wardrobe staples. Both offer quality craftsmanship in classic American straight leg silhouettes. By understanding the nuances between these two fits, you can choose your perfect pair to match your personal style and body type.

Whether you go with the lean 501 or the laidback 550, you’ve picked a legendary jean that’s sure to look great for years to come.

Clayton S. Johnson

Well, I am Clayton who writes, manages, and does overall stuff for this website. I live somewhere in Stone Mountain, Georgia, and used to have a full-time job. But the pandemic taught me to do more do with my life. So, I quit my job and travel a lot! Since I have tons of time now, I write about all the stuff I have done, used, and have first-hand experiences.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.