You can wear jeans to look trendy, feel comfortable, or keep yourself safe during a rodeo! With so many different styles and kinds of jeans available today, how do you choose which kind is best for you? For example, when you compare Levi’s vs Wrangler jeans, which is better?
The main difference between Levi’s and Wrangler jeans is in the overall style and aesthetic. Levi’s jeans embrace trends, while Wranglers focus on sturdy rodeo and outdoor work apparel. Both brands offer extremely popular jeans made out of durable denim, and both companies make efforts to provide sustainable features such as plant-based dyes.
In this article, you will discover key differences between Wrangler and Levi’s jeans. You will find out where each brand came from and what they sell today. Finally, you will find out how Levi’s and Wrangler differ from Lee jeans.
- What Are Levi’s Jeans?
- What Are Wrangler Jeans?
- Levi’s vs Wrangler Jeans: Key Points
- What’s the Difference Between Levi’s Jeans and Wrangler Jeans?
- Do Cowboys Wear Levis or Wranglers?
- Are Wrangler Jeans High Quality?
- Which is Older, Levi’s or Wrangler?
- Levi 505 vs Wrangler
- Wrangler Equivalent to 501
- Vintage Wranglers vs Levi’s
- Levi’s vs Wrangler vs Lee
- Popular Levi’s Jeans
- Popular Wrangler’s Jeans
- Which is Better: Levi’s or Wrangler Jeans?
What Are Levi’s Jeans?Levi’s jeans are the first jeans ever invented, sold by Levi Strauss & Co. Strauss founded this prominent company in 1853. Today, this brand of jeans is known for its mass appeal.
The Levi’s brand offers a huge range of styles. These cover everything from trendy skinny jeans to the original sturdy 501 that first sold in the 1800s!
Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis, two immigrants living in San Francesco in the late 1800s, invented the whole idea of jeans. Davis came up with the brass rivets that make this kind of pants so much sturdier than almost any other kind of legwear. Strauss provided the fabric out of his dry-goods store and patented the concept of this kind of pants.
At the time, no one called these denim pants “jeans.” Instead, most folks referred to them as “bibless overalls.” Men wore them for hard work, such as in gold mines, coal mines, or farming. It was James Dean who launched jeans into the cool world of teenage rebellion in the 1950s, and this led to the slang term “jeans” as shorthand for denim pants!
Levi Strauss & Co. pioneered many innovations over the decades, offering the first jeans with belt loops in the 1920s.
The company also sold women’s jeans for the first time in 1934, called “Lady Levi’s.” These jeans rapidly gained appeal during WWII, as Rosie the Riveter encouraged women to step into the factories and workplaces as part of the war effort.
In 1954, the company sold jeans with a zipper fly for the first time. Before this, jeans had only ever had a button fly.
In the 1970s, Levi’s sold bell-bottom jeans. Jordache popularized the idea of skinny jeans in the 1980s, but Levi’s quickly lept on that bandwagon. The brand has since continuously developed many different cuts and styles of jeans suitable for every different body type or activity.
In recent years, the company has also broadened its scope to consider environmental impacts. Ideas like conserving water and recycling used denim now play a role in the company’s operation.
Thanks in large part to the efforts of Levi Strauss’s company, jeans went from a useful work uniform to a worldwide phenomenon. In fact, over 450 million pairs of jeans sell every year in America alone!
What Are Wrangler Jeans?Wrangler jeans hit the market in 1947 and quickly won the hearts of cowboys and rodeo enthusiasts all over the country. C.C. Hudson pioneered the idea of Wrangler jeans, though it was the company he founded that actually went on to sell the first Wranglers after his death.
Hudson first founded a company called the Hudson Overall Company. Like Levi Strauss, Hudson and his company first focused on overalls and gear for the working man. Over the following decades, the company changed its name to the Blue Bell Company.
In the 1940s, Blue Bell purchased a little-known clothing line that used the brand name “Wrangler.” They liked this so much that they applied it to a special, brand-new type of jeans.
In 1947, the first pair of Wrangler jeans was sold. These jeans launched the concept of “ranch wear,” or pants designed especially for cowboys and rodeos. A celebrity cowboy named Rodeo Ben designed the jeans, and the company contracted with professional rodeo stars to wear the jeans and promote the Wrangler line.
The original pair of Wranglers had what the company promoted as the cowboy cut, featuring flat-felled seams that would not rub against the legs while riding horseback and extra-strong stitching in the crotch area. These jeans also used slightly higher pockets that fit the shape of a saddle more conveniently.
In 1963, Wrangler switched to using a super-heavy 14 oz. denim. At the time, they made the sturdiest jeans in the world!
Wrangler can also claim the distinction of being the only brand of jeans ever endorsed by the Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association, an honor the brand won in 1974.
Another huge milestone in the progress of the company happened in 1981 when Wrangler sponsored Dale Earnhardt in his famous NASCAR races. By 1991, Wranglers briefly held the spot as the top seller of jeans in the country!
Today, Wranglers remains extremely popular in the rodeo-going, country-music-listening crowd. The brand has a huge following in the Southern United States for these reasons.
Wrangler is not technically a company today–it is a brand owned by a company called Kontoor Brands, which also owns the Lee brand!
While Wrangler prides itself on continuing to offer more or less the same styles of jeans over the years, it has made strong strides toward sustainability by using plant-based dyes and focusing on reaching a goal of 50% decrease in the use of water to make their jeans.
Wrangler continues to offer Levi’s and Lee stiff competition, but it does not usually match the sales of Levi’s these days.
Levi’s vs Wrangler Jeans: Key Points
|Levi’s Jeans||Wrangler Jeans|
|Style||Extremely varied style, from sturdy working jeans to skinny jeans.||Focus on cowboy-cut jeans designed for ranch work.|
|Comfort||Many styles come in soft or premium cotton denim.||These jeans feature thick, heavyweight denim that feels scratchier and slightly less comfortable.|
|Fit||Extremely varied fit, depending on the style.||Loose and designed for mobility.|
|Durability||Most styles offer good durability.||Famous for excellent durability.|
|Sizing||Often features vanity sizing, and jeans may shrink slightly in the wash as well.||Sizing is usually a little smaller due to shrinking in the wash.|
|Quality||Very high quality.||Very high quality.|
|Cost||Fairly high, especially internationally.||Low|
|Best For||Everything from yard work to clubbing||Outdoor work that requires hardy jeans|
What’s the Difference Between Levi’s Jeans and Wrangler Jeans?
The biggest difference between Levi’s and Wrangler jeans is in the overall style. Both brands offer durable, comfortable jeans for the working man or woman, but Wrangler continues to focus on ranch wear styles while Levi’s offers many styles with a more fitted cut.
You can find some strong similarities between the brands, though. Both Levi’s and Wranglers remain two of the biggest names in the world of jeans today.
They also both promote a big focus on sustainability. Since denim production uses so much water and has many harmful environmental impacts, both Levi’s and Wrangler have recently led the way in searching for more sustainable production options for their popular jeans.
But overall, you can easily spot several key differences between the kind of jeans sold by Levi vs the kind of jeans sold by Wrangler.
Levi’s markets jean styles for every body type and every occasion, while Wrangler focuses on variations along the lines of its original ranch wear rodeo-style jeans. For this reason, you can think of Levi’s as offering a wider range of tailored options and varying styles than the Wrangler brand.
Even the iconic, original first pairs of Levis and Wranglers have key style differences.
The 501 was the first Levi’s style. This classic straight-legged cut offers a loose fit in the seat, thighs, and straight legs with wide leg openings. It has the classic five-pocket setup and a button fly. Originally designed to wear in the gold mines, these tough jeans can hold up to extensive physical labor.
Wrangler’s first jeans, the 13mwz, feature the “cowboy cut” with bootcut legs and a slightly higher waist. These jeans use 13 oz denim that has a scratchier, hardier feel. They also offer a double-stitched outer seam and flat-felled seams structure.
While they have five pockets, the pockets sit higher in the back than most modern Levi’s. This looks a little old-fashioned but works better on horseback!
Of course, both Levi’s and Wrangler offer various styles today. But the Wrangler brand focuses on bootcut, hardy styles while Levi’s offers many styles, including skinny jeans, boyfriend jeans, and slim-fit jeans. This makes the Levi style more of a sleek and fashionable choice overall, while Wrangler presents a more rough-and-tumble country appearance.
While Wrangler jeans might offer more comfort to someone on horseback, overall, Levi’s jeans provide more comfort for everyday wear. This is because Wrangler jeans use a heavier kind of twill weave to create their traditional, sturdy denim.
Levi’s jeans feature softer denim that can more easily wear into the shape of your body. Plus, the double-stitched outer seams on most Wrangler jeans can seem chunky and uncomfortable to people accustomed to the smoother shape of most Levis jeans.
Wrangler jeans typically offer a pretty loose fit that allows for extra mobility. In contrast, the fit in a pair of Levi’s jeans depends entirely on the cut you select because some styles offer a loose and comfortable fit, while others cling tightly to your skin.
In general, Wrangler’s for men tend to have a slightly higher waist than the average Levi’s waist style. They also prominently feature cowboy cut and bootcut styles with loose-fitting legs designed to pair with cowboy boots.
In general, Wrangler sizes often feel smaller than Levi’s sizes. This is partly because many of Levi’s styles will stretch out to fit you as you wear them, while Wrangler jeans typically do not stretch with wear.
How can you know what size of jeans to buy from Levi’s or Wrangler? You should always look for a sizing chart and compare it to your measurements.
Thanks to the ridiculous concept of vanity sizing, comparing a size from one brand to another is often like comparing apples and oranges. For instance, a size 32” waist is almost never actually 32 inches! In women’s sizing, a size 6 pair of jeans in one brand will always feature slightly different measurements from another brand.
Your best option for choosing the right sizing in both Levi’s and Wrangler jeans is to try them on. That said, one key thing to keep in mind, especially with men’s jeans, is that denim will shrink a little as you wash it. For this reason, some style experts recommend buying a pair of jeans one size too big for you and allowing them to shrink down to your body size.
Levi’s jeans cost more than most Wrangler jeans. In fact, you can buy many Wrangler styles for as little as $20! This is pretty incredible, considering that the Wrangler brand prides itself on offering some of the toughest, sturdiest pants in the world.
On the other hand, Levi’s offers what you might think of as high fashion in the denim world. They charge pretty high prices, like $69 for the original 501 cut of jeans. The Levi’s brand also has a huge international appeal and sells for even higher prices in other parts of the world than in the States.
Both Levi’s and Wrangler provide excellent durability, but Wrangler wins the contest hands-down when it comes to the toughness of the fabric used in each kind of jeans.
One of the biggest reasons Wranglers remain so popular in the American South is that they offer incredible durability for the ranch lifestyle. They famously will not rip when caught on barbed wire, for instance!
The softer denim used in most Levi’s styles is designed to wear in something called fade patterns. When denim fades and breaks down, more of the white begins to show through the blue and white pattern. In many kinds of jeans, this fade pattern will look unique because of your particular body shape.
Wrangler jeans, in contrast, have an even fade and do not break down and soften as much over time.
Wrangler jeans are best for hardy outdoor labor. They also give you an authentic country-western vibe and will fit in at any sports bar in the Southern United States. They have a uniquely “cowboy country” vibe that will fit in better in some crowds than in others.
Levis offers what some people term the “city folk” style of jeans. You can wear Levi’s for farming or yardwork, for sure, but you can also find Levi’s styles that make you look urbane and hip. These jeans offer more casual comfort than Wranglers due to the softer denim used.
Do Cowboys Wear Levis or Wranglers?
Most cowboys or anyone in the rodeo circuit will wear Wrangler jeans today. This is because the Wrangler brand was invented especially for cowboys and offers features specifically for horseback riding. The extra durability of most Wrangler jeans also makes them best suited to ranching or rodeo riding.
That said, many other brands, including Levi’s, Carhartt, and Dickies, also remain popular with cowboys and anyone engaged in hard physical labor.
The question often becomes more of a political issue than anything these days. It’s a bit of an overgeneralization, but loyal Levi’s and Wrangler customers tend to match up pretty neatly with the red and blue states. This has even led to some media sites claiming that Wranglers are the Republic jeans, and Levi’s are the democrat jeans!
In the early days, Levi’s jeans were seen as “lower class” working gear. Farmers and miners wore them and merchants or upper-class citizens would not be caught dead in such apparel! However, in recent decades Wrangler took over a lot of the working-class appeal and Levi’s moved into more of a hip, trendsetting market.
Are Wrangler Jeans High Quality?
Wrangler jeans are considered very high quality because they offer durable-long lasting wear for people engaged in outdoor work. They also have a history as a symbol of the American Cowboy and many Wrangler fans wear their jeans as a symbol of their American heritage.
These days the Wrangler brand also stands for sustainability in the clothing industry and is seeking to replace environmentally harmful practices with safer methods of production. FOr instance, Wrangler is one of the main companies trying to use plant-based dyes to use less water in eans production.
But for most Wrangler enthusiasts, the key quality of a pair of Wranglers is their tough extra-strong denim.
Which is Older, Levi’s or Wrangler?
Levi’s is a much older brand than Wrangler. Levi Strauss founded his company in 1853 and sold the first pair of Levis jeans in 1973. The first pair of Wrangler jeans did not sell until 1947.
Levi Strauss & Co. invented jeans, while Wrangler created a super-popular spin-off by focusing on tailoring jeans for cowboys and rodeo bull riders.
Levi 505 vs Wrangler
Levis 505 jeans feature a straight-legged, traditional type of jeans that fits a lot like several of the Wrangler straight-legged jeans, such as the Greensboro 803.
Both jeans offer a loose seat, plenty of room in the thighs, and wide, straight pant legs without any tapering.
The 505 is Levi’s slightly more modern update of the traditional Levi’s 501. In contrast, the straight-legged Greensboro 803 is a newer offering from Wranglers, named after the brand’s hometown of Greensboro, NC. The straight-legged Wranglers don’t have as much mass appeal as the cowboy cut and bootleg cut Wrangler jeans, though, so the Greensboro remains less well known.
Wrangler Equivalent to 501Wrangler’s equivalent to Levi’s 501 jeans is the iconic 13MWZ Jeans. While they don’t look exactly the same, each style launched its brand and each type of jeans has an incredibly loyal following today. Both the Levi’s 501 and the Wrangler 13MWZ feature durable denim and a comfortably loose fit.
Levi’s 501 jeans hit the market way back in the 1800s. These jeans have a classic loose fit as Levi Strauss designed them to wear in the gold mines! The jeans also feature five pockets, including the tiny coin pocket used for a pocket watch back in the day.
Because zippers had not yet been invented, the 501 jeans have a button fly. These jeans use sturdy denim instead of some of the softer or stretchier premium types of denim that the company uses for other styles.
Because they were the first jeans ever made, the 501 style is quite famous and you can find versions of the 501 from many decades in museums. The modern 501 still sold by Levi’s today looks a tiny bit different–it does not still provide buttons for suspenders to hook onto, for instance! But overall, the classic regular cut of these jeans remains the same as back in the 1800s.
Wrangler aficionados claim that the 13MWZ style is equally as iconic as Levis 501. As the first Wrangler style ever sold, these jeans represent everything the Wrangler brand stands for. They have a cowboy cut with slightly bootcut legs, a higher rise than Levi’s 501, and specially sewn seams designed for horse riders.
Plus, these jeans feature 13 oz denim with more weight and durability than the denim used in many modern jeans. In case you are wondering, the “13” in the style name stands for the 13 oz denim, while the “MWZ” originally meant “men’s with zipper.”
Like the 501, the 13MWZ has a relaxed fit in the seat and thighs to allow plenty of mobility. It also comes with reinforced crotch seams (presumably to prevent any awkward rips during bull riding!).
Vintage Wranglers vs Levi’s
You can buy vintage Wranglers and Levi’s jeans from some antique sellers or online at places like eBay and Etsy. These days vintage jeans that bring the fashions of the past to life have become increasingly popular.
There is more of a market for vintage Levi’s jeans today for several reasons, though. First, Levi’s has more global popularity than Wrangler. This provides a broader market for vintage clothes sellers, so they work harder to hunt down and resell old pairs of Levi’s!
Second, Levi’s has existed for a lot longer than the Wrangler brand. This means that you will find way more pairs of vintage Levi’s out there than vintage Wranglers.
As you search for vintage jeans, keep in mind that sizing has changed significantly over time. Another thing to keep in mind is that vintage Wrangler jeans sometimes do not fit people with curvier bodies as well, as the thigh, hip, and waist have more of a straight line and less curving than brands like Levi’s.
Levi’s vs Wrangler vs Lee
When you compare Levi’s, Wrangler and Lee, you can find distinct style differences, though all of these brands are so iconic that you often find them referred to as the “big three” of the denim world! But is one of these brands better than the others?
Not necessarily. Wrangler offers classic cowboy cut jeans with really tough denim. The brand does not have as much style variation as Levi’s or Lee, though it remains extremely popular today.
Lee is actually owned by the same company that owns the Wrangler brand, but the Lee brand of jeans focuses more on fashion wear. You can find all kinds of unique men’s and women’s cuts of jeans from the Lee brand today. Plus, Lee jeans typically use soft and/or stretchy denim in their jeans.
Levi’s, of course, holds the honor of inventing jeans in the first place. Today, the company strives to maintain its place in history by offering regular jeans like the original 501. But they also focus on setting fashion trends and offering a wide range of different cuts and styles to suit every type of person.
Popular Levi’s Jeans
Levi’s offers many popular styles that you can easily shop on the company website or Amazon.
Popular Wrangler’s Jeans
The Wrangler brand offers durable, hardy jeans for men and women. Some of their most popular styles include:
Which is Better: Levi’s or Wrangler Jeans?
Levi’s and Wrangler both offer incredibly popular jeans that have very different styles and aesthetics. Levi’s offers a wide range of both fashion and workwear jeans, while Wrangler focuses on fewer styles of sturdy jeans.
The big pros of Levi’s jeans are that you can find a style for pretty much everyone. If you like sturdy workwear, you can try the regular or straight-leg Levi’s styles made out of durable denim. If you want stretchy, softer, or more fashionable jeans, you can find a huge range of styles from skinny jeans or boyfriends jeans to suit your needs!
The big downside to Levi’s jeans, though, is that they do cost a lot more than Wranglers.
The pros of Wrangler jeans are that they feature tough, durable denim that is thicker and heavier than the fabric used in most other jeans. They also wear well for long days in the saddle and even offer extra protection for rodeo performers!
The cons of Wrangler jeans are the limited style choices and the scratchier not as soft denim.
Is one style of jeans better than the other? Not really, they just offer different styles! You will have to decide for yourself if you are Levi’s person or a Wrangler-wearer!