Levi 501s are one of the few items of everyday clothing in which there is a lively second-hand market. There are even a few companies who specialize in them, such as Beale's. And in the summer of 2016 we went to an American-themed fair here in France where someone was selling them for 35€ a pair: a bit over £30, a bit under $40.

Frances does better than that. She buys them at vide-greniers, typically at 5€ a pair. Well, I say "buys" but "bought" would be more accurate. I had to persuade her to buy the last two pairs, at 5€ a pair. Over the last year or two she's bought five pairs at that price, and one at 1€. As she says, "That's it for a while, even at 5€. My jeans drawer is too full." She has to shorten them, it's true, but that's hardly a major undertaking. 

It is of course possible that some are fakes, but quite honestly, it looks as though Levis themselves are faking 501s nowadays. They're made all over the world; the fabric is extremely variable; and all of it seems to be grossly inferior to the old narrow-loom denim. With an old pair of "classic" Levis, the fabric is a lot tougher and harder to sew when she's shortening them. You can still buy 501s made from Cone Mills narrow-loom denim, but they're two to three times the price of "cooking" 501s: $128 a pair in October 2016. The vide-greniers are a better bet.

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Words and picture copyright (c) Roger Hicks 2016