This is Part 2 of a very popular article I wrote last year on how to shrink your Levi 501 XX Shrink to Fit jeans. For more on Levi’s 501xx Original Shrink to Fit Jeans, please see my other articles on the subject.
The first article I wrote on this topic was after a few tries with Levi’s Shrink to Fit Jeans. I achieved the best pants I had ever owned and wore them exclusively for almost a year (the picture shows newly shrunk ones with my old faithfuls. No one believes me when I tell them that they were once the same color). 501′s by design feel roomier then they look which is the reason they are so comfortable and stylish.
A button fly and $40 a pair seals the deal. If you haven’t tried them I’d highly recommend it. It is fun to do and you get jeans in the end that feel like they were made just for you. I recently did another pair and just love the results. This is what I did:
- Buy your new raw jeans at your normal waist size but with long length
I am a tall skinny guy and I like jeans that fit comfortably with minimum bagginess. I bought the new un-shrunk jeans at my waist size and the longest leg length they had; this left me with 31-36 (told you I was tall and thin). The final fit is snug and probably perfect length although I would have preferred a bit longer (if they sold 31-38′s it would be perfect in my mind they do make 38′s! here’s a ideas on where you can buy them depending on availability). I buy my jeans at the Levi’s store so that if I don’t like how they come out after shrinking I can return them for my money back. Pretty sweet. Try the sizing tool.
- Wear your new un-shrunk jeans for a few days before shrinking them
I don’t think I could quantify the benefits of doing this, but wearing them with that deep navy color and cuffs is just darned cool. They are a bit stiff at this point but you’ll be surprised how quickly they adjust to being worn (or you adjust to them?).
- When you are ready to shrink them, draw a hot bath and get in wearing your jeans
One time when I was shrinking my jeans I made the bath too hot an scalded my legs. Not fun! It’s not necessary to make the water that hot. In fact I hear you can also shrink them by going swimming (something I’d love to try in Lake Michigan this summer) Just draw a comfortable bath and sit in it wearing your jeans for about a half an hour. You can also shower with them if you prefer but I haven’t tried it.
- Keep them on for the rest of the day while they dry
Before I actually tried it I thought this step was full of problems. It was actually quite painless.The key learning was that they dry much faster on your body then they do hanging up in the bathroom. I sat in the tub with no water in it for another hour or so then walked around the house and went about my business. They had stopped dripping constantly by then. If you want to sit down and feel like they are still wet enough to leave marks on your furniture, try putting down a dark towel first. If it is warm weather, take a walk outside or sit in the park! More practically you can use these few hours to clean your tub which will certainly be blue after soaking in it with your jeans. Try to keep them on for four or five hours, you’ll be surprised how dry they are by then. If you can’t stand the dampness anymore at that point go ahead and hang them up. If I could do it in the winter so can you.
- Keep wearing them for a week or two
Don’t do anything else to them until you’ve worn them for a week or two straight out of the shrink tub. This will help them mold to your body even more. If they get too baggy to stand move to the next step.
- Back to the shrink tub
I choose to do the shrinking again at this stage. I’m not sure how much it helped but it certainly didn’t hurt. In fact you can repeat these last few steps as many times as you like. Your jeans will get lighter every time which is good if you are going for a lighter look quicker. If you just love that deep deep navy and they are fitting well, I recommend skipping the subsequent shrinking after the first one.
- Wear them until they need to be washed then hand wash them
Wear them a lot which won’t be hard cause you’ll probably be in love with them by now (does that blue dye go to your brain? maybe…). Since I like to keep the color dark at first, I hand wash them in the tub inside out with warm water and just enough detergent to get them clean (surprisingly little…that stuff is potent). I hang them up to dry which takes at least over night for me sometimes longer. Using a dryer at this stage is ok if you are in a rush. If you are going for a lighter look, make the water hot, wash them right side out, use more detergent and rinse them in hot water a bunch of times. Drying them outside in the sun also helps to fade them quicker.
I love the results I got with the above steps. Thanks to all the commenters for helping me perfect the process. There are a few things I’d like to try in the future:
- I’d like to try a size 30 waist to see if I can get a nice tight look. 501′s tend to feel roomier than they look and they tend to stretch comfortably in the waist so I think this will be a good plan to skinnier legged jeans. I think I’ll also really research to see if I can get longer legs with these small waist sizes. Anyone have info on custom sizing or getting out of production sizes?
- I’d like to try shrinking some 501′s by swimming in Lake Michigan and lying on the beach and biking around Chicago afterwards. Sounds like a perfect summer day!
- I’d like to see if I can get a hold of the different color and weight 501 XX jeans that are now available. Please comment with information about good online or brick and motor vendors for Shrink to Fits.
- I’d like to try denim therapy to repair any holes so I can get more life out of the jeans I put all this effort into creating.
I hope I’ve inspired you to go and buy a new pair of Shrink to Fits. Have fun with your custom jeans and report back in the comments on any experiments or tips you come up with.