How to Shop Vintage Jeans, According to an Expert

Secondhand shopping has never been more popular, and vintage jeans are one of the biggest categories people are searching for. According to the Business of Fashion, “Before the pandemic hit, the resale market was on track to double from $24 billion in 2019 to $51 billion by 2024… This growth may very well accelerate.” Overall, retro items are clearly in demand, but there’s something about denim which attracts people even more. 

It shouldn’t be surprising. This year is all about denim, and the most in-demand styles are based around vintage silhouettes. But it’s more than that. According to Vestiaire Collective, “Our category of vintage jeans are significantly increasing +278% of sales and +254% of deposits compared to last year.” 

While there’s definitely been a bigger increase in searches for vintage denim more recently, online chat rooms and Reddit threads have been dedicated to hunting down rare selvedge jeans for years. Vintage jeans have always had their market, but it’s definitely growing. I spoke to Maggie Leadman—owner of Noirohio Vintage, which sells a lot of vintage jeans—who told me that, especially over the past five years, this area has become much more popular. As a result, it’s getting even harder to find decent pairs.  But there are plenty of places where you can find great pairs of jeans. Across various resale sites such as Vestiaire Collective and Rokit, you’ll find classic Levi’s and Wranglers and Chanel’s and Helmut Lang’s versions of jeans. Today, we’re going to tell you not just where to find the aforementioned denim but also why you should shop vintage jeans and how to shop them. 

With the help of Leadman, I’ve got some incredible tips below on how to find the ultimate pair of vintage jeans. Keep scrolling for more. 

Firstly, it’s a much more sustainable way of shopping. It’s well known that it takes thousands of gallons of water to make a new pair of jeans. I f you’re buying them secondhand, then this gets taken out of the equation. Secondly, they don’t make them like they used to. Leadman says, “The advantage to shopping vintage denim is the fact that they were just made better back in the day! The designers (especially Levi’s and Lee) knew how to cut a great and flattering pair of jeans. Not to mention, the quality of denim was much better, so they last longer and have great wear/patina the older they get.”

I think this very much comes down to personal style. If you’re looking for a truly great pair of blue jeans, you can’t go wrong with the classic brands such as Levi’s, Lee and Wrangler. But maybe you’re looking for a pair of cool Comme des Garçons jeans or Chanel’s elegant denim. The good news is that you’ll likely to be able to find the right designer for you—all you need to do is look. Vestiaire Collective tells me that, currently, the hottest vintage denim brands on the site are Levi’s, Helmut Lang, Jean Paul Gaultier, Dolce & Gabbana and Versace. So whether you’re searching on Vestiaire Collective, Farfetch, Etsy or any other site that has a great selection of secondhand clothing, you’re bound to find what you’re after. 

I think this is the trickiest part of shopping for vintage jeans. If you’ve ever shopped in retro clothing shops, you have probably noticed that everything just feels a bit tighter or, in some cases, looser. So how do you really know what’s the right size for you? Leadman has the answer: “The best way to find vintage jeans is to know not only your own measurements but to know the measurements of a pair of jeans (preferably vintage) that you already own. Vintage cuts are usually much different than today’s run-of-the-mill jeans. Keep in mind that vintage jeans do not have any elastic. They are 100% cotton so will stretch with wear, so it’s best to size down when searching if you want a tighter fit. Make sure to measure them right after a wash as well.”

Next up, the biggest jeans trends to know for 2021.