Not only are knock-offs manufactured, they also target the vintage market because that is where the money is hence a greater return.
Most fake Levi's are 'Vintage' 501s with all or some of the details that make real vintage levi jeans valuable. These can include:
-The Red Tab with capital 'E" which date real levi's to pre-1971
-V-Stitch near the top button. Another vintage characteristic
-Buckle on the rear (Buckleback)
-Bar tacked Rear Pockets
Most come from Thailand where they are made with cheap labor and materials. The denim used for the most part is of average quality, if not better than average. But the hardware used: Buttons, rivets, etc. are normally of inferior quality. In order to get the 'lived in' look and fade, Thai manufacturers apparently sell these jeans to Thai laborers at a very low price (less than $5 has been rumored) and are told to wear the jeans for a certain length of time - 6 months to a year for example, and NOT WASH THEM! the manufacturers then buy back the jeans, repair and clean them up, and sell them to tourists, exporters or on ebay for much higher prices than they are worth.
A quick search on ebay of 'levi big e' will almost always reveal anywhere from 1-2 fake pieces to almost 100 in some cases. Ebay seem to be doing very little in trying to remove these items from their site. Heres how to spot them:
-a redline selvage in the middle of the back belt loop,
-a redline selvage on the change pocket, visible from the outside, not folded and stitched inside the pocket like on the originals. Other variants do have the selvage on the inside, but sewn with a double stitch instead of the normal single stitch.
-leather patches are usually centered on the right instead of being on the far right of the waist, usually of a smaller size, and in the weirdest colors, from off-white to dark brown, or even navy, black, or red.
-if an inside care tag is shown, you can sometimes spot typos or just broken English. They'll usually claim "Made in USA", but in a font never used by Levi Strauss C°.
-a more discreet, but still visible break in the back pocket top stitch (along the line you usually look at for double- or single-stitching). The fabric is folded under the parallel stitches, and let out near the edges of the pockets. On original vintage or repro, this serves to secure these edges with rivets. On these Thai fakes, there may or may not be rivets, but the fabric let out usually sticks out far, which is visible particularly when the jeans are faded. In the following pic, it goes all the way down to the red tab
Number on back of top button:
Almost always stamped '501' off-center or not stamped at all. While some non-vintage authentic 501s may have this stamped on them, vintage big 'E' will always have a single digit or letter stamped (6, 5, 2, W) or blank, but if it is blank, there are usually punch marks on it.
Elongated 'V-Stitch' on fly:
Another common characteristic of fakes :-
|FAKE - this pair of fakes has '501' poorly imprinted on the rear of the button. Also the long V-stitch as well.|
|REAL - V-STITCH & STAMPED NUMBER ON THE REAR OF THE BACK BUTTON (JAPAN LEVI'S REPRO)|
The rear patch on the right hip can also give clues to whether or not the garment is authentic.
- Material: If it is a hard leather like material, the jeans are suspect. Unless the jeans are from the 1930s and the patch has a 'jerky' look to it, very few other Levi's have or had a real leather like patch. Although this is not a surefire way of telling because some in the LVC (Levi vintage clothing line) and ones produced in places other than the United States (Japan, Canada for example) did actually come with a hard leather patch.
- Labeling: Another clue is the printing on the patch. If the patch material seems authentic, most times the printing is not. It is either off center, spelling mistakes, or barring all of that not being present they are labeled '501-0657' in black ink. If the jeans are anything other than black 501s from the 1980s - if they have that on the label than they are fake.
|FAKE - Very accurate patch although a bit off color, the rear buckle and exposed selvedge give away that this is a pair of fakes.|
|FAKE - the white patch, definate sign of fakes.|
As you can see, most of these features can easily be verified, and could help you avoid spending your money on mass-produced fakes.