There are some serious denim heads out there, and you can see some of them post on Reddit (r/rawdenim). They talk about how it's all Iron Heart, Strike Gold, and Samurai, and that "entry level" selvedge is a major turn-off. Well, Iron Heart commands $250 and above! I just can't see spending that much on a pair of jeans. They ALL wear out over time. I might get a pair on sale and keep them as a kind of "top jeans" icon, wearing on special occasions.
I've actually been impressed with some entry level selvedge or kaihara. J.Crew makes the 770 and 1040 styles and they're really quite good, made of kaihara denim. They aren't selvedge, but they feel like it. Picked up a pair gently worn for $30 shipped, which is a significant discount from retail.
I'm also enjoying a pair of Tellason Ankara jeans that are nice quality selvedge. They are Sanforized but were pre-soaked then hemmed by the original owner and aren't shrinking on me. Wonderful fit for my body type (6' 225lbs). I'd really like to get a pair of Pure Blue Japan. But I still can't get over even the thought of shelling out $200 for jeans.
I wish I'd gotten into higher end denim earlier... as I hear now that cuffs are on the way out. Most denim heads are hemming, now that they've really got the hang of caring for their jeans to keep shrinkage to a minimum.
As for Levi's, I've had one pair of 501's from the year 2000 and at this point they're sitting in the repair pile due to blow-out. These unfortunate experienced high heat dryer sessions quite a few times... this was before I really understood that high heat KILLS clothing fiber (the aftermath is that "graveyard" in the lint trap). I've been tempted to try a higher end Levis jean, but QC reputation still seems spotty.