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A Complete Guide to Buying Vintage Denim

Where to shop for it, how to take care of it and, of course, how to wear it well

Vintage denim is a top trend right now—and no one’s surprised. The two decades inspiring fashion most these days are the ‘70s and ‘90s, known for their iconic denim styles.

The struggle? Vintage jeans are hard to buy. The fits and sizing are different than what is made today, and, on top of that, most vintage jeans you’ll find are men’s styles. But don’t let that discourage you, DuJour has put together a helpful guide to shopping, storing, washing and wearing. Because, if ever there was a time to channel your inner Cindy Crawford

Brands Matter
Most of the vintage denim out there is Levi’s, but Wrangler and Jordache also have some great styles. Knowing the difference between all the brands’ most popular fits is helpful. For example, the biggest difference between the Levi’s 501s and 505s—two of the easiest to find on the market—is that the 501s are button fly and 505s are zip fly. 

Length Is Irrelevant
Don’t worry so much about the length of the jeans. Vintage denim looks great cuffed, rolled, cut at the hem and into shorts or even a little on the cropped side. Instead, focus on a great fit in the waist and hips.

Wear One of a Kind
Look for color and whisker patterns in the denim. They tell a unique story and no two pairs will have ones that are exactly alike.

Make It Men’s
Vintage denim sizing is vastly different than today’s. Much of what is on the market is men’s, which means they probably run narrow in the hips. If it’s women’s sizing, don’t be alarmed if you have to size up a bit. Also, if the legs are a little loose there’s nothing wrong with having a tailor put a stitch up the back to take them in—just be careful not to change the pocket alignment too much. 

Shop in Stores
Buying online can be risky. Try stores like ReformationWhat Goes Around Comes Around and The Vintage Twin, who have JEANiuses on hand to help you find the perfect fit. That being said, there are a few sites dedicated to vintage denim that are great. Re/Done gets it really right.

Just Say No to Machine Washing
While a cycle in the wash won’t shrink vintage denim, it may further destroy any rips or tears, meaning you’ll lose some of what made that pair special from the start.