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Comfort vs Chic: Beyond skinny jeans, the rise of wide-leg denim


Comfort vs Chic Beyond skinny jeans the rise of wide leg denim

The world of denim is experiencing a fascinating shift. Skinny jeans, the dominant force for over a decade, are facing a challenge from a resurgence of wider-leg styles. But is this a full-fledged comeback, or are we witnessing a more nuanced trend story?

Current trends: A celebration of variety

Wide-leg is rules: From straight cuts to flares and everything in between, wide-leg jeans are dominating the market. Think barrel legs, balloon silhouettes, and relaxed fits – comfort is key. Data from Edited, a retail intelligence company, shows a rise in wide-leg styles on retail websites, with the barrel jean leading the pack especially in retail websites in the US and UK. Levi Strauss & Co., too confirms this shift, stating that looser fits now make up half their women's business. Similarly, Marks & Spencer in the UK has witnessed a doubling of sales in wide-leg styles, even launching their widest-ever palazzo jean.

Slimmer silhouette emerges Influenced by social media trends like Y2K fashion and the resurgence of ballet flats, there's a renewed interest in slimmer fits. Brands like Miu Miu are showcasing skinny jeans on runways, and influencers are experimenting with figure-hugging styles. Interestingly, skinny jeans haven't entirely vanished for some demographics. Marks & Spencer reports that skinnies still comprise a significant portion (around a third) of their women's jeans sales, dominated by their best-selling Ivy skinny jeans.

In fact, social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok are democratizing fashion trends, creating a fast-paced cycle. This has led to a renewed interest in slimmer silhouettes, particularly those reminiscent of the Y2K era (low-rise cargo pants and crop tops) and early noughties (micro-miniskirts and skinny jeans). Additionally, a significant portion of consumers, particularly millennials, remain loyal to the slimmer fit, keeping it relevant in the market.

Regional variations, a mixed bag

While wide-leg styles dominate globally, there are some regional nuances. In the US and UK, the shift away from skinny jeans is more pronounced, with wider legs selling out faster and at higher price points. However, in Asia, skinny jeans might still hold stronger ground due to cultural preferences and body types. In the US, the shift towards looser fits is evident, with Levi Strauss reporting that half their women's business comes from these styles. Marks & Spencer saw sales of wide-legs double in a year, and they're launching their widest jean ever – the palazzo style in the UK.

Influences shaping denim

The pandemic's influence on our clothing choices is undeniable. After months in sweatpants, comfort became a priority, leading to a preference for looser fits over restrictive skinny jeans. Indeed, after lockdowns, a return to skinny jeans felt restrictive. This, coupled with the influence of oversized silhouettes, made wider-leg styles more appealing.

Then there was the influence of social media. Platforms like Instagram and TikTok fuelling a trend cycle on overdrive. Y2K aesthetics and nostalgia for the 2010s are bringing back slimmer fits. The influence of high-fashion houses like Loewe and Alaia, promoting looser fits, has also trickled down.

Can denim save the day against activewear?

The proliferation of denim trends, particularly the wider-leg styles, is indeed boosting sales. This variety offers something for everyone, potentially encouraging people to buy more than one pair. However, the dominance of athleisure wear – yoga pants, leggings, and activewear – has undoubtedly impacted denim sales. The true test lies in its ability to compete with the ever-popular athleisure and activewear categories. While denim offers a more fashion-forward alternative, its comfort level compared to leggings and joggers might remain a point of contention.

The current denim scene is exciting, offering a multitude of options. Whether you favor wide-leg comfort or prefer a slimmer silhouette, there's a denim style for you. This diversity, coupled with the ability to create various looks with denim, positions denim for a potential revival. However, brands must stay agile, catering to the ever-evolving trends and consumer preferences. As WGSN, a fashion forecaster, aptly terms it, the ‘Internet of Trends’ demands constant adaptation.


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