Left is right

Original Levi's 501s are starting to look a lot better—and not just because medium-rise jeans are supposedly back. (Or black jeans, washed a million times and all faded to gray.) It's purely an aesthetic, so it's partly how they look and partly how they fit. And as with all fashion, the rest of it happens inside your head.

They make 501s offshore now, in either Mexico or China; the "e" in Levi's is lowercase, the dye is different than it used to be—and fades less beautifully—and the jeans now have about five fewer rivets. But that doesn't matter. Because the pattern is still the same, and even after they've shrunk and shrunk and shrunk, 501s still have more room than whatever girl-fit jeans Levi's or Seven or Calvin Klein are selling now.

Girl jeans are fine, but they're better on girls. I have some—all tight in the ass, and low-rise—and I feel like a girl in them, which is . . . unsettling. The boot flare doesn't help; neither does the fact that I spend 10 minutes tucking in my boxers in the morning and deciding whether I'm having a right or a left day. (That's a lie; I let gravity figure that out.) But also? They manage to put the zipper in a position that makes urinals near impossible.

501s, of course, are just as great for how they look, too—even on girls, who, yes, are better able to display more of themselves in low-rise, skintight denim. I get the 36-inch inseam when I can find it—for cuffs—but even when they're the right length, 501s have a certain presence, with their straight-leggedness and that dark-ribbed, railroad-stripe effect when they're brand-new, that modern jeans just don't.

They don't make you feel like a tool for the denim industry, because you just know that 50 years ago, some wiper on the Union Pacific line wore a pair of 501s to work and mopped his greasy hands on his thighs. (And then some weasel found those same jeans at the wiper's estate sale last month and sold them on eBay for $2,176.) Resales notwithstanding, this makes you feel better about yourself—for unlike so much of what passes for jeans these days, Levi's Original 501s actually make you feel like you're wearing pants. Even if they're under a skirt, which by the way, we've been meaning to talk to you about. That's just about over, too.

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