Comparing the construction and fit of two of the most iconic jeans.
When it comes to the age-old debate of Levi's versus Wranglers, there's a lot more to consider than meets the eye. On the surface, rumors abound that Wrangler Cowboy Cut jeans are the superior choice – with better denim, better construction, a more flattering fit (for some), and a significantly lower price tag than Levi's in the United States.
While these claims aren't unfounded, the ultimate result on which brand is better might not be as straightforward as it seems…we found that Levi's STFs are actually a major contender in this debate.
Table of Contents
- Construction: Levi's vs. Wrangler Jeans
- The Denim Face-Off
- Fit: Levi's vs. Wrangler Jeans
- The Takeaway: Which jeans are better?
How Should I Size Levi’s or Wrangler?
First off, always check the measurements on the site — no one is going to be more up-to-date/give you the simplest most accurate answer than the actual brand themselves. That being said, here is what we found:
Levi’s 501 Rinsed
True to size — these jeans are a little slimmer than Wranglers so you can size up one for a looser fit that’s closer to the Cowboy Cut (besides the Wrangler butt).
Levi’s 501 STF
Go up two sizes in the waist and two inches in the leg. These bad boys shrink around 10% when they are in contact with water and if you wash them on hot/dry them they’ll get even smaller (we don’t recommend you wash them on hot or dry them…more on that later).
These fit true to size!
Levi’s vs. Wrangler Jeans: Construction
First off, it needs to be said that both of these jeans (and almost all jeans for that matter) will have a certain amount of durability. When manufacturers are making jeans, they know that the end user expects some level of durability so they'll most always provide that. That's not to say all jeans are the same, but there is a baseline. However, if we want to get a little nitty-gritty and break down the construction quality of these two jeans, we'll see that there is a clear winner…and its name rhymes with danglers.
The first thing most people would gravitate to when debating durability is the rivets on the back of Wranglers — there are four chunks of metal sitting at the corner of each pocket. While these look great (and they are rounded so they don’t scratch whatever you’re sitting or leaning against) they really don’t provide much if any extra durability when compared to Levi’s use of bar tacks (those very tightly packed stitches on the corner of the pockets). So we’ll give Wrangler extra points for the extra bling — but from a practical standpoint, these two brands are the same there.
When comparing the stitching quality of the two brands, we’d say that Levi’s edges out just a bit over Wranglers, frankly, Levi’s look just a bit cleaner. The notable difference between the two brands however is that Wranglers uses a felled outseam on their jeans while Levi’s does not. This DOES make a difference in the strength of the jeans because we are lowering the chance of a seam ripping open as a failure point. It should be noted though — most jeans don’t fail this way, the fabric typically gives way before the stitching becomes a problem.
We’ll get to denim in the next section but overall — besides the two previous points mentioned, the construction of these jeans is the same. We’d be remiss if we didn’t note that Wrangler jeans have an extra two belt loops (which is great) AND they have a notably beefier zipper when compared to zippers that Levi’s typically uses. The 501s we are looking at today don’t have zippers but, of course, many do.
Overall: Wrangler makes a more durable pair of jeans. We’ll break down why exactly that is later on.
Levi’s vs. Wrangler Jeans: Denim
Levi’s popularized the use of denim in the US. At first, they utilized duck fabric on their pants but they quickly moved over to the denim we all know and love today. While old Levi’s used lightweight denim (8 - 9oz) they quickly beefed up their fabric weight to the 12oz fabric we all know and love today. This weight strikes a great balance between durability and comfort. It doesn’t feel like a straight jacket on your legs.
Levi’s denim is also a right-hand twilled denim (look at your jeans and look at the direction the lines are going on the fabric). Right-hand twill denim is fantastic and by far the most popular denim used on jeans. While it’s used by virtually everyone, at its inception it had a few issues: it’s tough, a bit stiff, and when you rinsed your jeans for the first time, sometimes the leg of the pants would twist. At one point in history that wasn’t very much liked — now denim nerds sometimes love the look of the leg twist.
Wrangler came to the game far after Levi’s put in the work to make jeans an iconic piece of Americana. That’s not to say they didn’t have a rich history before their Cowboy Cut hit the scene BUT it is to say that they had a lot of time to get an opinion of what was working and wasn’t working in the market. The first thing Wrangler did with their Cowboy Cut is beef up the weight of the fabric when compared to Levi’s — Cowboy Cut jeans are 14.75oz, 2.75oz heavier than Levi’s…and you can feel it. It’s not a dramatic difference but the fabric is notably heavier.
You may be asking yourself, why would Wrangler do this if that meant their jeans would be less comfortable? Well, in so few words, it wasn’t. It may have actually been the same, if not MORE comfortable. It also got rid of (or greatly reduced) leg twist. How did Wrangler do this? Well instead of right-hand twill denim, they used left-hand twill denim…aka denim that pulls both to the right AND the left. Broken twill is softer from the start and almost eliminates leg twist.
Overall: It's a tie between Levi's and Wranglers for construction. Maybe a tie doesn’t seem right but in this day and age, it really is up to preference. Something notable, however, is that Levi’s denim is significantly darker than Cowboy Cut Rigid jeans.
Levi’s vs. Wranglers: Fit
Levi’s (Rinsed) 501s Fit
Levi’s is a behemoth. You can’t talk about denim without them coming up in the conversation. What does that mean? Well, it’s a bit tougher for them to get a silhouette that EVERYONE likes vs. a specific niche of people (cowboys, for example). That means that Levi’s makes concessions with the fit of their jeans — they are always trying to strike some sort of balance between look and functionality. Truthfully, they are far more concerned with the look of their jeans over functionality.
All that is to say, however, these jeans should be treated more like “dress jeans” rather than “work jeans”. They are slimmer than Wranglers by about a full size (the waist will fit you fine of course but thigh, leg opening, etc.) so you can get a similar look by going +1 in your Levi’s but, these are much more fashion/trendy focused than Wranglers. And they don’t give you Wrangler butt.
Wrangler left, Levi's right
As mentioned in the Levi’s section, Wranglers fit a bit wider than Levi’s. There isn’t too much to say about that besides: if you like a wider look, get Wranglers. However, Wranglers does something that gives you the famous “Wrangler butt”. What is that something? Well, simply, they raise the pockets way higher than Levi’s. Why did Levi’s lower their pockets so much? Was it because sagging is fashionable? It hides your butt better? Truth is — nobody knows BUT what we do know is that the higher back pockets on Wranglers do really show off your booty.
Wrangler jeans, middle
Levi’s (STF) Fit
We did a little test in our video to see if Levi 501 STFs were any different than the regular rinsed 501 and to tell you the truth…they aren’t. However, you can hack 501 STFs a little bit. The common advice for shrinking your Levi’s is to sit in the bathtub with water as hot as you can stand it. You don’t actually have to do that though, you can toss your jeans in the bath with very hot water and you’ll get the same outcome (if you sized correctly!! The jeans should NOT be hard to button when you put them on before soaking. They should be too big.).
However, if you end the process there, and never dry your jeans in the dryer or put them in the washing machine (hand wash on cold only!)…then, you’ll have a magical fitting pair of jeans. They are a bit wider than the Wrangler’s and the Levi 501 Rinsed jeans and they’ll have that nice crispy look to them as well.
Levi's STF left, Levi's Non-STF right
Overall: Wranglers emphasize your assets with their wide fit and higher pocket placement, while Levi's offers a slimmer, sleeker silhouette. 501 STFs are the bees' knees.
Wranglers are wider, with higher pocket bags, offering better construction and thicker denim for more physically demanding tasks. In contrast, Levi's have a slimmer fit, drape more elegantly, and their darker indigo shade and iconic patch design tend to be considered more visually appealing.
Surprisingly, we found that Shrink-To-Fit Levi's 501s actually have the best fit of all, as long as they're not tossed in the dryer. So, even though Wranglers are the more durable choice, STFs are most likely going to fit best.
Levi's STF left, Levi's Non-STF right
Ultimately, whether you want your butt emphasized (Wranglers) or prefer a more subdued look (Levi's), both brands have their merits and can be a great addition to your denim collection. Next time you face the Levi's vs. Wrangler dilemma, consider your durability and style preferences.
The Iron Snail is a men’s fashion vlog starring a young man named Michael and featuring a snail no bigger than a quarter. The two are set on taking over the world of fashion by creating a clothing line to end all clothing lines. Until then, we’re here to tell you EVERYTHING you need to know about the best clothing out there, from the highest quality raw denim jeans to the warmest jacket to the sturdiest boots…the Iron Snail has got you covered.
Taylor Hale is your friendly neighborhood tea enthusiast, amateur knitter, skincare nerd, clothing thrifter, regular flosser, accidental teapot collector, vintage IKEA lamp hunter, overzealous plant owner, beeswax candle-lover, gal pal, and obviously, very serious academic. She writes for the Iron Snail, as you can see.