Levi's Denim Jeans

A Beyond Retro Guide To The Levi's 500 Series

Finding the perfect pair of jeans is difficult at the best of times let alone when you dive into the world of the Levi's The 500 series. To help eliminate your vintage denim shopping woes we want to provide you with some insider tips and tricks to find the most flattering, bum-enhancing pair!  Check out our ultimate guide to shopping vintage Levi's 500 series.

505 - Regular

A big player in the history of denim, these were the first jeans with a zip! Sitting at the waist, these straight fitting jeans are perfect for creating everyday outfits. Super comfortable with a little added room in the thigh, these jeans are for everyone! Paired with an oversized shirt and headscarf, these jeans are perfect for creating a 1940s ‘Rosie the Riveter’ look.  Paired with white socks, moccasins and a flannel shirt, they become a symbol of 1940s teenage defiance!

550 - Relaxed

550s are for the more relaxed jean wearer. Sitting at the waist, not too tight in the thigh and with a stylish taper toward the ankle. Make them your own by customising them 'til your heart's content!

517 - Bootcut

517s are all about enhancing fabulous shoes! Designed to fit over boots, these are the perfect jeans to show your shoes in all their glory. They are cut slightly lower in the waist, perfect for floaty bohemian shirts, a suede jacket and those amazing shoes! A great base for the ultimate 70s look!

501 - The Icon

Possibly the most iconic jeans in the world, the 501 goes with literally anything. Dress them up or down, they will always be a winner! Slightly high-waisted, with a straight leg, defying every convention, whilst fitting flatteringly into every area, we at Beyond Retro, cannot sing their praises enough! May we suggest pairing them with docs and white socks?


Sizing can be difficult, especially with vintage jeans! When shopping, remember that the size you think you are is probably not the size you will end up with. This can happen for a few reasons most notably because our jeans are pre-owned! Denim stretches and molds over time to the body they spend the most time with.  

Most styles defy gender! But jeans are cut differently for men and women merely because we are anatomically different! So a 30 in men’s will fit differently to a 30 in women’s. Bear this in mind when shopping for vintage - a lot of men's and women's will be mixed in. A lot of women find that if they are trying on a ‘mans’ jeans, they will need to go up a size to allow more room for their hips.   


  • Most styles defy gender!
  • Black denim will always be tighter than blue.
  • Men and women's sizes differ - women tend to go up a size, if not two when trying on men's jeans.
  • Buying a pair of vintage jeans instead of new saves 36 bathtubs of water!
  • Try, try try! The jeans that you like the least, may be the ones that fit the best!

You are ready! Head out and shop till you drop - using these tips you are well on your way to finding THE PAIR Check out our huge selection of vintage Levi's here and if you need more denim styling advice check out our blog on how to wear vintage Levi's denim jackets.

A Guide to Levi's Tabs

A Guide to Levi's Tabs

How can you tell your Levis from you Samurai? Why have some Levis got big ‘E’s’ and small ‘e’s?’ Why do some have just the trademark logo and why are some orange? We’re going to take you through a simple guide on what tab colours means what, and how to differentiate even the smallest of differences on Levi’s tabs.

What's with the Red Tab on Levis?

When Levis patent expired in 1890, competitors such as Stronghold, Boss of the Road, Can't Bust ‘Em started manufacturing riveted denim jeans. From a distance the pocket stitching looked similar, they had a patch on the waistband and of course, they were all blue. Frustrated, the national sales manager of Levi’s, Chris Lucier, came up with the idea of a little red tag on the back pocket. With Levi’s sewn in white so whether you were at a rodeo or a movie, you could see immediately who was wearing Levi’s.

The little red label was patented in 1936  and today the tab is one of the most iconic parts of a pair of Levi’s jeans. Today the simple tab has become a part of roofless trade wars with copies of the red tab popping up all over the world, with Canes, Geisha and Samurai jeans to name a few copying the tab. It's so intense that Levi’s hire undercover detectives all over the world to catch the sellers of the counterfeit jeans and to cut the red tags off one by one!

Levi’s Big E.

Levi’s created the ‘Capital E’ tab ran from 1936 when the tab was first introduced as previously mentioned by Chris Lucier and ran until 1971.  After 1971 Levi’s changed the tab letters in small ones, Levi’s instead of LEVI’S. For the real denim collectors, it’s a true treasure when you find an original Levi’s Big E item. In the Big E area there were some more different tab colours on the back pocket besides the famous red one; orange, white and black. Levi's Orange Tab was for fashion jeans, White Tab was generally for Levi’s For Gals (except it was also for corduroy). The Black Tab with gold lettering meant the pants had undergone the STA-PREST process (non-iron).

Levi’s Small e.

In 1971 Levis had changed its tab to red Levi’s rather than LEVI’S. However, the only letter to change visibly was the ‘e.’ This has become a mark amongst collectors to differentiate a collectors big E to a more mass produced small e, the latter still in production today.

The Red Tab with the Trademark

You might come across a pair of Levis with just the trademark and write them off as a fake, however, they are intentionally designed with the almost blank tab. Since the tab is copied the world over, it requires extra-legal force from Levi’s and their right to market clothes with the tab. They, therefore, have to produce a certain percentage of Levi’s products with a plain Tab and just the trademark symbol. This shows that Levi’s owns trademark rights in the Tab itself, not just Levi’s wording.

The Orange Tab

Everyone has a favourite and this one is mine! In the 1960s  Levis wanted to differentiate other kinds of Levi’s from the standard 501s. It was the birth of their ‘fashion denim’  - Shirts, jeans hats, flares and boot cuts. The design team of Levi's Orange Tab, got to be more experimental, changing the silhouettes and stepping out of the stringent requirements put behind red tab clothing. Early Orange Tabs do not have care labels inside as that wasn't enforced by US law until 1971, so be on the lookout for the care labels as that will make the difference between the 60s and a 1970s and newer Levi's Orange Tab.

White Tabs

Levi’s white tab is more specifically known for corduroy jeans and jackets, but if you’re lucky ladies, the Levi’s for Gals collection also had a white tab, which ran in the 1960s and 70s.

Black Tab

The 1960s sta-prest, the black Tab with gold lettering for products treated in the new Sta-Prest process — which guarded against wrinkles.

Silver Tabs

In 1988 the Silver Tab was introduced, from baggy jeans to street inspired denim, the Silver Tab defined the late-80s and 90s grunge denim.

Levi’s Signature Range

This often gets overlooked by vintage Levi buyers who often think they are buying a regular pair of Levis. Noticeably the ‘Signature’ jeans have no tab.

The Levi’s ‘Signature’ range is still in production today and started in the early 2000s as a cheaper diffusion line. It is sold in Walmart, Kmart and Amazon, so don't expect the same quality as one that bears a tab on the back.

Want to know more? Find out the History of Levi's Jeans and stay tuned for more!

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Words Hugo Harris
The Beyond Retro Guide to Normcore Fashion

The Beyond Retro Guide to Normcore Fashion

What is Normcore Fashion?

Four years after the word Normcore was a runner-up for the Oxford English Dictionary's Word of The Year (losing out to 'vape'), it's time to untangle the surprisingly complicated meaning of the word 'normcore' along with its viral evolution and bizarre variations - menocore anyone?

The Origin of Normcore

The story begins way back in the dark ages of 2009 before Instagram even existed. A cartoonist named Ryan Estrada was invited to draw a guest strip for the comic Templar, AZ. He came up with a conversation about increasingly ridiculous subcultures, the punchline being 'Normcore. Dangerously regular dresses only in t-shirts and jeans, uses slang appropriated from other subcultures, but only three years after its first use, and only three years after it's been used in a sitcom'. Estrada promptly forgot the satirical poke at youthful tribes and got on with his life.

What Happened Next?

In 2013, unbearably cool trend forecasting agency K-Hole coined the term in their yearly report to describe a generation of youth that was over individualisation and into belonging. One NY Mag article later and the term was turned from a pensive description of a state of mind to a fashion trend that encompassed 'stonewash jeans, fleece, and comfortable sneakers' or off-brand New York ball caps... paired with turtlenecks, sweatpants, and boxy jeans'. The article cited Jerry Seinfeld as the unlikely icon of this new trend, and just like that the term went viral.

The Backlash of Normcore

By the beginning of 2014, the normcore style was already being decried as hipster nonsense, a cynical appropriation of pure intentions, a spoof, a massive in-joke. A fake trend that spun out of control. GQ spelt it out in bullet points with an article entitled '20 Reasons You, Normcore Guy, are an Idiot'.

Is Normcore Over?

By 2015, GQ, Highsnobiety and a host of other fashion publications had pronounced normcore dead. The trouble is, no-one paid attention. The runways have remained awash with normcore elements and the trend keeps resurrecting in new forms. 'Gorpcore' added puffer jackets, velcro and all sorts of sensible outdoor wear to the mix in 2017.

2018 saw a wave of windbreakers, bumbags and slides promptly christened 'tourist chic'. 'Dad style' celebrated tucked in t-shirts, pleated pants and pulled up socks. Most recently, this spring, Man Repeller announced 'menocore', a cross between menopause and normcore fashion. The trick is to dress like 'a mom in a Nancy Meyers movie or an eccentric ceramicist exiting her beach house studio,' or in other words, linen trousers and loose tops finished off with a scrunchie or bucket hat.

So... What Does Normcore Mean Again?

Ok, so. It's basically a response to the conspicuous consumption, fast fashion and logomania of the early 2010s, and just like the anti-fashion statements of minimalism and punk before it, it's become a trend of its own. The aesthetic - as well as the spirit - is a very nineties one, closely linked to slacker style, grunge and even heroin chic. Here are some loose rules.

  1. Functionality above all else. Trainers, skate shoes, washed denim, low key sportswear, workwear, turtlenecks, baseball caps and if possible some sort of reusable water container.

  1. Approved brands include Carhartt, Patagonia, Northface and Birkenstocks. Basically, all those things your Mum wears that you swore you never would. Vintage, obviously. This look should appear lived-in.

  1. No overt logos, no glitz, nothing expensive (looking). The normcore style is about fitting in rather than standing out.

  1. Nostalgia plays a key role, try and remember what you were wearing on a school trip in the mid to late nineties and buy grown-up versions of all of it.

  1. If it's unisex, even better.

Three Normcore Inspirations

Phoebe Philo

The former Céline designer embodies the chicest version of normcore, the anti-fashion fashion uniform of loose trousers, turtleneck, trainers and a ponytail.

Shia LaBeouf

The unlikely fashion icon is so celebrated for his functional looks that there's an entire Instagram account - @shiasoutfits - dedicated to them. Scroll for daily normcore inspo.

Your Dad

Seriously. Embodied here by America's Daddy Barack Obama, note the oversized polo shirt, the high-waisted jeans and the uncool trainers.

A Normcore Watchlist

Early seasons of Friends

Before the group got financially savvy and started working their dream jobs, the Friends gang all embodied their own unique takes on normcore. The styling of the show emphasised the approachable-ness of the characters - their struggles were realistic and so were their wardrobe budgets. Note especially Rachel's sweater and pyjama bottom combo in The One Where No-one's Ready, and the whole group's Thanksgiving football look.

Funny Ha Ha

Normcore's filmic counterpart is mumblecore, a genre of oddly charming, low budget, independent cinema in which everyone has very long, improvised conversations and little actually happens. The very first mumblecore film, Funny Ha Ha from 2002 follows the post-college life of Marnie as she journeys through a series of life challenges and dorky t-shirts that symbolise her struggle to become a grown-up. Pure normcore. Nineties precursors Reality Bites and Clerks can also provide some retro sartorial slacker inspiration.


Final Girls provide fertile ground for normcore inspo since practicality is everything in the struggle to avoid the masked murderer and survive 'til the end of the film. Watch Scream, the ultimate nineties slasher, for Sidney Prescott's simple sweater, jeans and sneakers combos, as well as her boring-chic selection of suede, leather and denim jackets, a new one in each part of the trilogy due to those tricky-to-get-out blood stains.

How to Dress Normcore

A lot has happened since the initial trend went viral, here's how to do normcore for 2018 in four simple steps.


Style it up for Summer

Ditch the puffer and the waterproofs and style this trend for summer with the help of some light wash denim, an over-sized sorbet coloured polo shirt and slides over socks if you want to go full on Dad chic.

Gone Fishin'

While the trend started with sweatpants and baseball caps, this season's nod to sportswear takes the form of the fishing vest. If there's one normcore item to invest in, this is the one... but a bucket hat couldn't hurt either.

Mom bags

Forget jeans, the latest Mom accessory is the bag. Look for leather brands like Coach and Dooney & Bourke in sensible medium sizes for your A-Z and wet-wipes.

Make it Girly

Normcore is deviating from its unisex routes to encompass nineties grungy dresses and denim skirts. Pair the former with a checked shirt and the latter with a plain Champion sweatshirt for the perfect no-frills ensemble.

You can get more 90s Summer Pop Culture Inspiration in our blog, talking about our top 5 tv shows that keep the 90s alive.


Words Sarah Cleaver