Which Levi’s 501 shorts are best?

Levi Strauss and Company is synonymous with high-quality denim, and their 501 silhouette is the brand’s most iconic style. But when it’s too hot for jeans, Levi’s 501 shorts are a classic. Made in a variety of cuts and washes, they’re a favorite of young celebrity influencers such as Hailey Bieber and Kylie Jenner.  

If you’re looking for a pair of Levi’s 501 shorts with a universally flattering fit, the Levi’s Premium 501 Original Shorts are a top choice. They boast the perfect figure-hugging high-rise waist, a just-long-enough inseam and a versatile wash.

What to know before you buy Levi’s 501 shorts

The Levi Strauss and Company brand

Levi Strauss founded a wholesale dry foods business named Levi Strauss and Company in 1853. About two decades later, he partnered with a local tailor, Jacob Davis, who approached him with his uniquely durable pants design. The iconic American brand was born after the men obtained a patent on May 20, 1873, for what would eventually be called jeans. 

Their denim was originally marketed to working-class men who needed rugged pants that could withstand the daily grind of the mining, farming and ranching industries. It wasn’t until the 1920s, when Hollywood Westerns got ahold of them, that Levi’s jeans became a household name. 

Styles of Levi’s 501 shorts

The original Levi’s 501 jeans haven’t changed much since their inception. The fit boasts a straight leg, high waist and a button fly. Soft and comfortable, the 501 shorts look and feel as though you turned your old Levi’s jeans into a pair of cutoffs yourself. They’re made of thick cotton or a cotton-elastane blend for added stretch.

When it comes to options, women have more of a variety to choose from than men do. 

Inseam: Most 501 shorts for women feature an inseam of just 2.5 inches, while the longer mid-thigh shorts feature an inseam of 6 inches. Plus-size options offer a 4-inch inseam. 

Rise: The rise differs somewhat depending on the style you choose. For instance, the rise of the 501 Original Shorts is 11.125 inches, while the rise of the 501 Original Mid-Thigh Shorts is 10.5 inches. For plus sizes, the rise is 12.87 inches on the 501 Original High-Rise Shorts or 13.375 inches on the regular 501 Shorts.

Distressed: Depending on how worn you want your shorts to look, some 501 shorts come gently ripped, while others feature holes in them.

Men are only offered 501 shorts that sit at the waist, hit above the knee (with inseams of either 7 or 9 inches) and are either neatly hemmed or slightly frayed at the bottom. 


If you want to add your own personal touches to your shorts, the Levi’s website has an option that lets you customize your look. You can choose from different washes as well as add an overdye, such as black, green or lavender. You can also pick a pattern, like leopard, bandana or tie-dye. If you prefer the distressed look, the options include “worn,” “damaged” and “destructed.” 

What to look for in quality Levi’s 501 shorts

Washes and colors

While you might not want your favorite pair of denim shorts in every color, Levi’s offers their 501 shorts in more than a dozen different washes. In addition to classic blues, you can also find them in black, white and gray as well as brighter options, like yellow, lilac and pink. 


When you buy eco-friendly clothes, it incentivizes companies to make more environmentally friendly upgrades to their factories and sourced materials. Levi’s factories have committed to using renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They also use their own Water<Less techniques, which take less water to create the same worn-in looks. If you love vintage, their Levi’s Authorized Vintage line of 501 shorts features reclaimed pieces that are one of a kind. 

How much you can expect to spend on Levi’s 501 shorts

You can find Levi’s original 501 jean shorts for around $40-$70, Levi’s premium 501 shorts for $60-$80 and Levi’s authorized vintage 501 shorts for $128 or more. 

Levi’s 501 shorts FAQ

How should you wash your Levi’s 501 shorts? 

A. Levi’s recommends that you wash your shorts every 10 wears. When you do wash them, turn them inside out so that you can preserve their finish. 

How can you ensure your shorts fit perfectly?

A. Find the size that fits the largest part of your body and ask a tailor to alter the other areas. For example, if your shorts fit your hips, but the waist is too large, a tailor can take the waistband in so they fit like a glove.

What are the best Levi’s 501 shorts to buy?

Top Levi’s 501 shorts

Levi's Women's Premium 501 Original Shorts

Levi’s Women’s Premium 501 Original Shorts

What you need to know: It has a universally flattering fit that shows off your curves in all the right places.

What you’ll love: It sports a high 10.5-inch rise that accentuates your waist. It also has a 2.5-inch inseam and boasts a chewed hem that creates a flattering flare. These were made using Levi’s eco-friendly Water<Less technique.

What you should consider: The 2.5-inch inseam might be a little short for some. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top Levi’s 501 shorts for the money

Levi's 501 Original Shorts

Levi’s 501 Original Shorts

What you need to know: These sustainably made shorts boast standard and plus sizes. 

What you’ll love: These cotton shorts are fitted through the hip and thigh with a 10.75-inch front rise and a 15.25-inch back rise for added coverage. They feature a 3-inch inseam unrolled and a 2.5-inch inseam when rolled.

What you should consider: Try sizing up if you are between sizes because these shorts do not have any elastane for stretch.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Kohl’s 

Worth checking out

Levi's Women's Premium 501 Mid-Thigh Short

Levi’s Women’s Premium 501 Mid-Thigh Short

What you need to know: If you want the iconic denim cutoffs with a little more length, these can be your next favorite shorts. 

What you’ll love: These shorts boast a 6-inch inseam, which you can roll up for a custom fit. Their high-rise waist helps you show off your curves, and they come in sizes 23-34.

What you should consider: Some might find the five-button fly to be a bit of a challenge. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods


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Ella Scott writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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