You know they're out there, because you’ve seen them in photos: They’re jeans that lie absolutely flat across your stomach, breaking just enough to suggest that the woman underneath isn’t actually suffocating. The denim is thick and substantial; you can make out the individual threads. There’s no stretch — obviously — and the legs are thin and tapered, ending right at the tops of your boots. They're dream jeans, and I breathe a prayer each time I enter a thrift store or log onto eBay that I’ll be lucky enough to come across a pair. In my entire life, I’ve found two: One was a pair of old Lee’s that I wore so often, the butt completely disintegrated. The other pair, I encountered on Monday.
Back let’s backtrack first: The jeans that spurred my search came from one image of Debbie Harry. Shot at a Blondie show at CBGBs, the jeans were slim-fit Levi’s, with a mid-rise zipper fly, and the unisex uniform of NYC punks in the early '70s. Says head of design at Levi’s, Jonathan Cheung, the 505s became a hit because, “it was subtly subversive. It was a slim fit for those times, and a zip fly carried a much heavier connotation with rebelliousness then.”
That image of Harry inspired a particularly fruitless obsession of mine, where I searched for vintage 505s on every corner of the internet and dusty thrift-store rack. While Harry’s (and The Ramones’, for that matter) were skin-tight, the ones I was coming across were slightly more relaxed, with a straighter leg. They were expensive, too. Says Cheung, “The price of vintage 505s has shot up.” It turns out that The Ramones’ jeans in particular were customized to be cut slimmer. I put my search on hold, considering that the holy grail jeans seemed to have come from a tailor’s studio. But, two days ago, Levi’s reached out to let me know that it was re-making the 505, with its punk origins in mind. With a zip fly, heavy deadstock fabric, and a slimmer cut, these 505c (“c” for “customized”) jeans had the potential to be it.
When I tried them on, the denim almost creaked and cracked it was so stiff. According to Cheung, the fabric was tracked down from a 1976 pair. The zipper fly created a flatter front (which was my only gripe about the button-fly Wedgies that were otherwise so close to perfect for me). The butt, too, was cut in that way that only vintage jeans seem to have. Says Levi’s chief product officer Karyn Hillman, it creates an “inverted heart, perky bum thing that vintage Levi’s do.” They looked almost too good to be true — in a way that gets jeans addicts nervous that that good pain will turn into no-good pain after five hours. But after a full day (and a full night out) in them, I felt the jeans had molded to my body like a glove. No pinching, no organ-crushing, but lots of compliments.
While I’m typically a vintage denim girl, this was one case that I’ll happily switch teams. Click through to see the different styles (named after the punk legends that first customized them), and the photo that started it all.