Second hand jeans - a buyers guide

Second hand jeans - a buyers guide

Second hand jeans are becoming a more popular alternative to first-hand jeans. 

But you already know that - that’s why you’re looking for a guide to buying them! 

This article is split into 3 main sections:

  • Where to buy second hand jeans 
  • How to wear and look after your vintage jeans 
  • The benefits of wearing second hand jeans 

Where to buy second hand jeans?

Since there is a growing demand for second hand jeans, there are more physical and online stores selling them, so you can decide if you want to buy them online, or go to a store and check them out before buying. 


Where to buy second hand jeans offline

Depending where you are in the world, you’ll have different options to find second hand jeans. Your best bet will be to head to local flea markets, and any local second hand shops. 

The physical stores in your area will probably have some kind of online presence, so you can check out what kind of jeans they have in stock before you go there. 

second hand blue jeans hanging from a wooden coat hanger

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash


Where to buy vintage jeans online

A lot of people sell their own used jeans on online marketplaces, for example through Facebook or Ebay. 

There are also a lot of websites who sell second hand jeans, some of these might be connected to physical stores as well, but some will be purely online. 

Where to buy second hand Levis jeans? Where to buy Levis 501 jeans?

Again, you have a couple of options if you’re looking for a specific brand of jeans. 

When looking to buy second hand Levis offline, you’ll have to do a bit more research to make sure flea markets or vintage clothes shops are actually stocking Levis. 

Look through their social media, or websites to find out what they stock before you go there. 

If you are in the market for a pair of secondhand Levi's 501, make sure to check out our collection of authenticated 501's for men and women to find your next jeans.

How much do second hand jeans cost?

There is no definite rule on how much you should pay for second hand or vintage jeans - this will depend on the brand and condition of the jeans you’re buying. 

In general though, second hand jeans will be sold at around 50% of their original price. 

Although if you find an especially rare or unique and customised pair of second hand jeans, the price will be much higher.

Is there a market for second hand jeans?

There is a growing market for second hand jeans, especially for younger consumers. 

In a 2021 survey, 42% of millennial and Gen Z respondents said they would shop for second hand products.

Eco-conscious consumers are choosing second hand over first hand to reduce the impact on the environment. 

Statista estimates that the global market value of second hand and resale apparel was worth $96 billion U.S dollars in 2021. 


light blue jeans with a red levis label


Are old levi jeans worth money?

In 2022 a rare pair of 19th-century levis jeans were sold for over $80,000! 

But this is pretty uncommon. 

On average, old levis jeans are worth around $100 - but of course, this depends on the quality and popularity. Rarer jeans will sell for higher prices, like in the example above. 

U.S. based Denim Traders have a rough guide for determining the value of second hand levis:

  • Condition of the jeans: that’s the most important factor, and an unworn pair with the original tags still attached will be worth the most. 
  • Dark wash over faded denim. 
  • Waist size 32-36 inches: this will increase the value, since the majority of buyers are looking for vintage jeans that they can actually wear. 

Another trick for determining the date and value of your jeans is to look at the red “Levis” label. 

Labels with a big “E” are going to be worth more than labels with a small “e”. These red labels first started appearing in 1936, and all the letters were capitalised. But, in 1971, only the letter “L” was capitalised. 

So a big “E” means older jeans, and generally more value when selling. 

We've written a great summary of the 5 key design elements in the Levi's 501 which we recommend you to read.

What to look for when buying second hand jeans?

Look for 100% cotton. 

These jeans will last longer, and hold up better after multiple washes. Jeans made of stretchy materials like spandex or lycra will wear faster. 

Check the country of origin. 

The manufacturing process for denim jeans varies from country to country, so be sure to know the style you are looking for and what countries were producing jeans in that style.

100% cotton tends to be more popular from U.S manufacturers, whereas Japanese manufacturers tend to have a more raw denim style. 

How to clean second hand jeans?

The best way to clean your second hand jeans is by hand-washing them in cold water, with a mild detergent. To dry them, they should be laid flat in a cool, dark place to prevent mould growth. 

You can machine wash them as well, just be sure to follow these steps:

  • Soak them in cold water with a little bit of mild detergent for about 15 minutes before washing them. This is going to help remove any stains. 
  • You can use a little bit of white vinegar to prevent the colours from running and keep the denim from fading. 
  • Wash the jeans inside out, on a cold water cycle, and a delicate or hand-wash cycle if possible, 
  • Lay the jeans flat to dry, in a cool, dark place. 

If your second hand jeans come with a care label, follow those instructions. If there is no care label, then just stick to a cold, delicate wash and drying process.

To get rid of wrinkles, using a steamer is better than an iron, since it’s a little less harsh and will do a better job at protecting the fabric. 

Really want your jeans to last? Check out our comprehensive guide on washing and repairing your second hand jeans.

Are vintage jeans better quality?

Vintage jeans were generally made with better quality denim. The methods used by original jeans manufacturers resulted in softer and more durable jeans compared to what’s made today. 

Vintage jeans are designed to age. They fade better, and the worn-look is something that denim lovers look for in all jeans. 

Vintage jeans were also designed to be worn and abused. The original jeans were made for workers who were looking for functional clothing that would survive daily use in tough conditions - which is why they still look great today. 


women wearing custom vintage jeans in the street


How to wear vintage jeans

However you want! 

Some of the vintage jeans you’ll find have enough character on their own to be a statement piece. Pair it with a simple t-shirt or other items you already have in your wardrobe for a subtle style. 

Or… you can get more creative and loud with it. 

Patch up old tears and stains with modern fabrics and colours. 

Cut them to fit your own style... it's really up to you.

Benefit of wearing second hand jeans

The main benefit is the same with wearing any second hand item: less harm done to the environment. 

A lot of resources are used to manufacture clothes first-hand, and while buying second hand clothes might not be completely emission free (due to cleaning and transport), it’s far less compared to producing a brand new item. 

Buying second hand can also be a way to save money. 

As we said above, in general, second hand jeans sell for around 50% of their original price. 

Buying second hand can be a way to find unique items that no one else will have. Since it’s not mass produced and widely available, you greatly increase your chances of finding something unique. 

That’s all for our second hand jeans buying guide. We hope it helped. 

We’re increasing our own stock of second hand jeans, you can take a look at them here.