Jeans are one of the items that new sellers get wrong almost every time. Most brands don’t hold their value, they’re difficult to picture, and are more expensive that you’d think to ship. Put all of these things together and, suddenly, the simple task of buying jeans becomes a money sink. When we first started reselling, our local Savers had a “Member’s Event” where all men’s jeans, pants, and shorts were 75% off. We went down the rack and pulled out almost 50 pair of jeans. After all, you can’t go wrong for $3 can you?! Well…turns out you can. Terribly, stupidly wrong. We ended up re-donating almost 20 pairs of jeans, and muddled our way through listing the other 30. A year later, we still had 10 pair that remained unsold, sitting in storage. All told, we spent around $160 on the 50 pairs of jeans and ended up profiting just over $200.
Barely doubling our money for hours of sourcing, listing, and shipping? No, thanks. Looking back through our sold listings later, I realized that there were only 6 pairs of jeans that I should have purchased. They would have sold within a month, we would have put in 1/5 of the work listing and shipping, and we would have spent only $20 to profit…drum roll….just over $200. So read on to discover the secrets of working less and making more in the world of men’s jeans!
The first thing to understand about jeans, is that only crazy people pay full price for them.
For example, a new pair of Levi’s might have a MSRP of $68.00 on the price tag, but be available at stores for $50. Furthermore, they are probably available online for half of retail. It’s a given that you shouldn’t be expecting to sell your thrifted jeans for even half of retail, since they’re are available new for that price. So, what is it that makes used jeans valuable, and what should you be looking for?
WHAT DETERMINES THE VALUE OF USED JEANS?
BrandIt shouldn’t come as a surprise that brand trumps all when it comes to jeans. While focusing on brand is not a fail-proof method, it is the method that will allow you to move through the racks as fast as possible. When we are digging through racks of jeans, we typically go through the rack backwards (meaning looking at the butt of jeans first) and keep our eyes open for the leather brand tabs or logos which are usually on the waistband or pocket. Now, just because you find a good brand doesn’t mean that the jeans are valuable, but no-name jeans typically hold no value at all on eBay.StyleNo matter the brand, it is next to impossible to sell jeans that are not in style. “In style” does not necessarily mean current, but there are jeans that so few people would willingly wear that they are not worth picking up, no matter the price. When it comes to style, be on the lookout for:
- Current Cuts: Currently, the best sellers are skinny/slim fit jeans and straight leg fits. Relaxed or “dad” fit jeans are nearly always less valuable and, with very few exceptions, we don’t even bother looking up bootcut jeans.
- Look for high levels of complexity in jeans. “Complexity” typically means that the jeans cost more to manufacture, and therefore have a higher potential of being valuable on the used market. Some good examples of complexity are: thick stitching, flap pockets, unusual or colored washes, embellishments (rivets, studs, etc.), and mixed materials (double layered denim, canvas front, and leather).
RarityTwo types of jeans can be worth big money, no matter the age or style. If you’re interested in digging through hundreds (or thousands) of pairs to find the couple gems that can bring hundreds of dollars, look for:
Big E” Levis
The “Big E” logo on the little red tab indicates that the pair of jeans you’re looking at was made before 1971. Levis of this era are much more rare than you’d think, and we’ve only found 4 pair of jeans and 1 jacket during our 5 years thrifting. None of the items we found were very rare and ended up selling for $70-120 apiece. There are, however, pairs of jeans that can go for several thousand dollars! We don’t claim to be an expert on old Levi’s and there is surprisingly little information on the net, but if you need somewhere to start, check out the following articles:
In the interest of simplicity, Selvedge (originally “self-edge) refers to that little white strip you see when you look at the inside of a pair of jeans. This is the edge of the fabric and is usually indicative of a pair of jeans that is either old or of high quality. Each company uses a different color of thread in the white (for example, Levis are known for the Red-Line-Selvedge) and this can be used to date and identify eras.
For more info: What does Selvedge Denim (also Self-Edge or Selvedge) mean?
AgeWhen it comes to when jeans were made, there are 3 distinct eras which you can find profitable jeans in. Keep your eyes wide for jeans that are current and in style now, jeans that are vintage but back in style, and the transcendent dad-fit jeans. There are some dead zones of age (e.g. most 90’s jeans) where jeans are worth very little.SizeWhen we thrift, we always check the end of the rack to see the largest pair of pants they offer. Typically this is just for interest’s sake, but sometimes we find something unusual that we decide to buy. After all, if you wear a size 54×28 what are the odds that you can find them at your local Walmart?
Unusual sizes do very well on eBay – whether that means tall and skinny, short and fat, or any other unusual combination.
DO YOU REALLY NEED TO INCLUDE MEASUREMENTS?
Short answer: yes.
Long answer: if you include measurements, you’ll end up with better sales, happier customers, and fewer returns. It literally takes less than a minute to take measurements and add them to a listing. We keep the following template in a note on my phone and paste it into the listing when we’re creating drafts:Condition:
Waist: (laid flat, measured side to side):
Check out the pictures and feel free to ask any questions.
Thanks for looking!
FINAL BOSS: PHOTOGRAPHING JEANS
After perusing eBay listings for jeans, you might assume that photographing pants is the hardest thing in the world. Some of the atrocious picturing styles we see make me wonder how people sell anything at all! While our way isn’t perfect, at least it isn’t embarrassing and (probably) doesn’t scare off any customers! Check out these tips for taking your pics:
- Hang your jeans. To get an idea of the style and shape of the jeans, you really need a straight-on picture. Hanging jeans will allow for this, and reduce the chance of you getting that strange, distorted long-leg picture that people get when they’re too short to take the picture at a correct angle.
- Use a light background. Any background that contrasts with the color of the jeans can work, but a white background is by far the most professional. We use a sheet of butcher paper thumb-tacked to the wall. When it gets beat up, we replace it with another $.50 sheet of paper.
So, before we get to brands, let’s talk about the 7-9 pictures we take of every pair of jeans (or pants of any sort for that matter…)
PICTURE #1: APPEALING
If you want to increase your sales, improve your first picture. Your title decides whether or not people will find your listing, but it is usually your picture which determines if your potential buyer will click.
So how do you make your first picture look as appealing as possible? Easy! Stop worrying about the first picture accurately representing the item, and start thinking about how to make it look the most appealing to a shopper. Maybe the most appealing shot is a close-up? Or an artsy shot? Whatever it is, make sure it’s crisp, quality, and will draw in buyers.
For jeans, our cover photo is typically a picture of the jeans folded. Try and fold them so the most interesting thing (embroidery, stitching, brand tag, etc.) are on top and easily visible.
PICTURES 2 & 3: FRONT & BACK
It is important to follow up your cover photo with something that represents your item well. In the case of jeans, include a full picture of the front and the back so people can get an idea of the fit/cut/etc. I always avoid listings that have lots of close-up pictures but no picture of the entire item…I assume they’re using close-ups to hide something.
PICTURES 4 & 5: TAG/SIZE TAG
The brand tag and size tag are important to have visible. They serve as a reference later when you are listing, gives your customer proof of the size, and can have your back if your customer ever opens an Item Not As Described Case.
PICTURE 6-8ISH: SPECIAL FEATURES
Obviously you have to include these! This is what the person is here for, after all! If there is something that might be appealing, snap a picture of it. You don’t always need to have 12 pictures, but since you’ve taken the time to source an item and set up a picturing session, take the extra 5 seconds to get a picture of everything that someone might want to see.
PICTURES 7+: FLAWS & HIGH WEAR AREAS
Pictures are worth a thousand words, so be sure to include a picture of anything that was not there when the jeans were new. After all, your idea of “Fair Used Condition” might be someone else’s idea of “Totally Awesome, I don’t care about that stain!”
BRANDS TO LOOK OUT FOR:
7 For All Mankind
OTHER COMMON(ISH) BRANDS THAT ARE PROFITABLE
- A Bathing Ape
- Abercrombie & Fitch
- rag & bone
- Big Star
- Naked & Famous Denim
- Citizen of Humanity
- POLO by Ralph Lauren
- Silver Jeans
- Hugo Boss
During the time we’ve been reselling, we’ve sold over 500 pair of men’s jeans. Of those, fewer than 20 were brands not on this list. So if you keep in mind the brands here, and also keep an eye out for the unusual and the look of quality, you will very rarely go home empty handed. Happy Hunting!