I don’t buy jeans often. Maybe every two or three years. For a long time now, my go-to was Levi’s 511, which is a slim but not skinny silhouette that works very well on my frame. The other selling point for me with this particular style number was the availability in rigid, selvedge denim. Well… not anymore, apparently.

Over the last decade or so, Americans have developed an irrational demand for clothing that stretches. I say irrational because the need for stretch implies that wearer requires flexibility in movement. But the country’s steady weight gain has me scratching my head on that one.

Denim is one of the biggest offenders when it comes to stretch, which I consider to be the high fructose corn syrup of clothing. Part of the problem might be the fantasy that every body type should be able to squeeze into any size and style, no matter what. I still don’t get it. I’ve been wearing jeans made with regular, 100% cotton denim for nearly 50 years, and I’ve yet to encounter any jeans-appropriate situation that would be made better with elastane.

And let’s not forget that stretch is made from rubber, which is plastic, which eventually blows out and stops stretching and ultimately breaks down, becoming toxic. But I digress.

I went to Levi’s website hoping to find a new pair of 511s in my regular rigid, selvedge denim. They were usually around $150, which was worth it, since the 12 oz raw denim lasted longer. But no dice. In fact, every pair of 511s that Levi’s now sells is made with stretch denim (1% or 2% elastane or more). Every. Single. Pair. Really, Levi’s? What the fuck?

The only stretch in my regular, non-athletic wardrobe is in my socks and in the waistband of my underwear. Nowhere else. This ridiculous need for stretch in absolutely everything we wear is a plague. It’s stupid, and it needs to go away. Like J.Crew, Levi’s has forgotten what’s in their DNA and abandoned generations of customers like me who came to them for reliable, consistent quality. Until Levi’s remembers where they came from and who they are, they’ve lost my business.


  1. I’ve found Left Field NYC to be my preferred brand of denim after I gave up on Levi’s. Personally I like their Charles Atlas fit, but you may like their slimmer Chelsea fit. They’re a simple no nonsense 100% cotton, no stretch, no frills brand of jeans. Yes, a little on the expensive side but built to last and they offer repairs. You can even get them with a chain stitch hem to your desired inseam length if you’re not going for the Lumberjack Bro aesthetic.

  2. Kevin Kirkpatrick

    I totally hear you on this. Stretch denim makes me crazy. Have you heard of Dearborn Denim in Chicago? They sell non-stretch denim for a very reasonable price.

    Looking forward to the next chapter in your memoir …

    Hope you are well, George!

    • Thanks, Kevin! Yes, I’m a fan of Dearborn. But I want them to make their slim fit in non-stretch denim. (Currently, it’s only available in stretch.)

      • Kevin Kirkpatrick

        That’s what you get for needing slim fit! 😉 I wear the tailored fit, but they’re sold out currently. Oh well. Take care, George. And post chapter 2 soon!

  3. I’m happy with Suit Supply’s jeans. Italian denim. (selvedge, no stretch) Made in Italy.

  4. Elizabeth

    I’m a woman & I agree here! When I was a kid I wore Levis, Carharrts, black Lee Frisco Can’t Bust Ems, or even denim overalls. No stretch. Yes, not fashionable, but utilitarian. Jeans for women now are even worse. Slide over a log on a hiking trail in a pair of Lucky stretch tissue paper jeans and u tear the backside out on something minor like a branch sticking out of the log. I’ve worn such jeans for cleaning out a chicken pen and tore holes in the legs from brushing up against chicken wire. They also feel creepy and tight like leggings. Jeans not supposed to feel like this.

  5. Mary Ann

    You might want to check out this shop in Nashville – imogeneandwillie.com – biker chic and they have their own denim made – here’s their new rigid denim jean: barton slim indigo rigid usa lot 1

  6. I have the same complaint about chinos. Used to like Dockers, but they’re all stretch now. Found that Izod still makes 100% cotton chinos that fit well.

  7. Oh George I hear you! I have been complaining about this for years. So hard to find any garment without stretch. I don’t want to wear a plastic bag and sweat! I’ll have to go back to making my own clothing!


    For work pants check out Prison Blues. Yes, they are made by inmates in an Oregon prison. The pants are very well made and are affordable ( for work pants).

  9. Try Wrangler 936 rigid. 15 oz denim, $25. That broken twill is nearly indestructible. I’d like to source some rigid 101z’s, but Lee has become impossible to find. Having trouble finding 100% cotton cords for winter. O’Connells has some gorgeous pairs, but I’m not crazy about their price point

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