Anyone trying to understand the distinction between Levi’s 505 vs 550 jeans could be forgiven for not being able to recognize the differences.
While the two pairs are part of different sub-categories of jeans, at the end of the day they’re both denim jeans that look pretty much exactly like what you picture when you hear the phrase “Levi’s.”
Levi’s 550 vs 505 Jeans
The Complete Guide to the Denim Differences
How do they fit?
Fit is by far one of the most important aspects of how your clothes look, and one of the biggest differences between 550s and 505s.
All the jeans made by the Levi Strauss company fall into seven distinct categories of fit:
Skinny Fit Jeans, Slim Fit Jeans, Straight Leg Jeans, Taper Jeans, Boot Cut Jeans (which I basically never recommend, unless you happen to be wearing them with cowboy boots), Relaxed Fit Jeans and Loose Jeans.
The 550s fall into the Relaxed Fit category, while the 505s are in the slightly slimmer Straight Fit category.
To make matters slightly more confusing, the 505s are also frequently referred to as Regular Fit jeans, even though that’s not one of the six categories.
The idea is that even within the broader Straight Fit category there are some variances.
For instance, the Regular Fit 505s have a slightly more relaxed style than other straight leg jeans like the 514s or or the vintage Levi 501s.
The best way to understand the difference between Levi’s 550 and 505 jeans is to understand the difference between their two categories: relaxed fit jeans vs regular fit jeans.
Relaxed Fit (550)
As a general rule, relaxed fit jeans are a bit looser than regular fit, and slightly baggy, but not so much that they look disheveled or ill-fitting.
A roomier cut, they have quite a bit of extra room in the seat and down through the thigh area, where they’re wider than regular fit styles.
With relaxed fit the emphasis is placed pretty squarely on comfort; they’re designed to give you plenty of room, and be easy to move around in.
Regular Fit (505)
But that’s not to say that regular fit jeans are uncomfortable – not by any means.
As mentioned above, Levi’s fits come in seven broad categories, all of which fall on the skintight-to-baggy spectrum somewhere between Skinny Jeans and Loose Jeans.
Regular Fit jeans like the straight cut 505s fall pretty close to the middle, providing a slightly more modern look than the 550s.
They’re not nearly as tight as skinny leg jeans, which are basically skintight, or even slim jeans, which aren’t painted on but hue pretty close to the leg.
But they’re not baggy, either. With a slimmer leg, they have an overall fit that gives you less room and a slimmer look than the 550s.
There’s just enough extra material to make moving around comfortable and easy, but not so much that it’s going to billow out or make you look like you’re drowning in denim.
One place where you can really see the difference between the 505s and 550s is in the leg opening.
The 505s are straight fit, which means the leg opening is the same diameter, from the quads right down to the ankles.
For instance, on a pair of Levi 505 with a waist size of 32, the leg opening is 16” in diameter all the way down.
The 550s, on the other hand, are a little wider up near the quad, then have a tapered leg that gets narrower near the ankle.
But the Relaxed Fit 550s start with a little more fabric up top, so despite the fact that the jeans taper toward the bottom, they’re actually wider than the 505s.
On a size 32 waist, the 550s have 16.5” in diameter down at the ankles, and get even wider through the quads.
So, even though the 550s do get narrower near the bottom, the 505s still have a smaller leg opening, which contributes to their slimmer silhouette.
To determine the rise of the waist, you run a measuring tape from the point where the two inseams meet (aka the crotch), up the zip fly to the top of the pant’s waistband, where your belt loops are.
Both the 505s and the 550s are mid-rise jeans, meaning they’re designed to sit right at your waist, and both feature the zipper fly that’s standard on most Levi’s jeans.
Whereas low rise jeans don’t do your belly any favors, and high waist pants run the risk of making you look like a poindexter, mid-rise jeans split the difference and provide a happy medium.
The Denim Shop summed up the advantages of mid-rise jeans well when they said, “You’ll like the mid-rise jeans if you have battled “muffin top” with low-rise jeans in the past.”
Both the 505s and the 550s come in a pretty wide range of color options and washes.
As of the time of this writing, both styles come in seven different color options on the main Levi’s website, ranging from light blue to black.
But if you want to go beyond the usual blue jeans, Amazon actually carries a much wider color range of options.
Overall Looks and Impression
If you’ve been playing out the Levi’s 505 vs 550 debate in your head for awhile, the best way I can summarize it is to say this:
The 505s are the safe, baseline choice. They’ll never look bad, but they’ll also never look particularly stylish or be one of the most popular styles, either.
I wouldn’t recommend wearing them with a blazer and a button down shirt, but if you’re just looking for a great pair of jeans to wear to the construction site or while working in the backyard, the 505s are pretty much perfect.
If you’re a bigger guy, then everything I just said in the paragraph above about the 505s applies equally to the 550s.
If you’re not a bigger guy, then the 550s will probably look a little baggy on you, so I only recommend them if that’s the specific style you’re going for.
When worn properly and styled with the right other clothes, the 550s can look fly, but it’s a high risk game; if you miss the mark, you risk looking less like Drake and more like Barack Obama in dad jeans.
You’ve been warned.
Pick Your Pair ↓
You Know The Difference Between Levis 550 vs 505
Now Learn How to Make a Big Difference on The Way You Look
Now that you know the differences between Levis 505 vs 550 jeans, you’ll be able to pick the pair that looks (and works) best for you.
But while knowing how to pick the right pair of Levi men’s jeans to suit your style and body type is important, pants are really only one factor in the menswear equation.
In order to optimize the rest of your look, you need to know how to nail all the tiny but important details that add up to have an outsize impact on your overall appearance.
That’s why I’ve put together a checklist outlining the nine most important details you need to nail. It not only shows you what aspects of your look you need to focus on, but (just as importantly) how to make sure you nail each one.
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