Fact Check

Shrink-to-Fit Jeans Death

Did a pair of shrink-to-fit jeans strangle its wearer?

Published Aug 31, 1997


Claim:   The purchaser of a new pair of shrink-to-fit jeans attempted to achieve the perfect skin-tight size by wearing them while soaking in a bathtub and was killed by the crushing force of the constricted pants.

Status:   False.


[Collected on the Internet, 1997]

Allegedly some teenage girl was trying to get her jeans as tight as humanly possible, as was the style. So she wore her new 501's in the bathtub and then waited for them to shrink to fit. They became so tight she couldn't get out of them.

[Marsano, 1987]

Somewhere in California, a young woman decided to fit herself out with a sexy pair of skintight jeans. Having bought the tightest pair she could find, she went further, using the traditional technique of immersing herself in a tub of water and allowing the jeans to dry and shrink on her body. The jeans shrank tight enough to bring her blood circulation to a total stop.


  • Some

    versions of the legend end not with the wearer's death, but with the embarrassment of the wearer's having to be cut out of the jeans by an emergency rescue crew.

  • The legend sometimes ends with the claim that the victim (or the victim's relatives) received a large cash award/settlement from the jeans manufacturer (always Levi's).

Origins:   This legend originated in the mid-1980s, not long after Levi's initiated its new line of shrink-to-fit jeans with a commercial featuring a "hot, sweaty young man [who] steps into a bath wearing only his Levi's 501s and soaks them until they perfectly fit his lower half." The leap from television commercial to legend is an obvious one, with a gender switch to enhance the vanity aspect. (Although the legend features both men and women in the starring role, the latter predominate.)

Last updated:   19 May 2011

Sources Sources:

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   The Choking Doberman.

    New York: W. W. Norton, 1984.   ISBN 0-393-30321-7   (p. 154).

    Marsano, William.   Man Suffocated By Potatoes.

    New York: Signet, 1987.   (p. xii).

    Mhlambiso, Thembi.   "Jeans: True Blue and All-American."

    The Daily Record.   22 May 1992   (p. 114).

Sources Also told in:

    Fiery, Ann.   The Complete and Totally True Book of Urban Legends.

    Philadelphia: Running Press Books, 2001.   ISBN 0-7624-107404   (pp. 87-90).

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