In March, Jennifer Foyle, chief creative officer at American Eagle, said the company has noticed a shift among shoppers toward looser fits. She predicted a new fashion cycle in denim was underway, a sentiment CEOs such as Richard Hayne of Urban Outfitters and Fran Horowitz of Abercrombie & Fitch have also voiced. “There’s a shift now in denim and in fashion, which is exciting for that category,” Horowitz said on a call in March. “The skinny jean is becoming less important.”

Generational shift and a pandemic trend toward comfort

Relaxed fits have been gaining popularity among fashion-forward shoppers for some time, offering a fresh look after so many years of skinny jeans ruling. Accordingly, designers and luxury companies such as Balenciaga that prize themselves for being on fashion’s leading edge have been making denim with baggier fits.

But other factors are now helping to move wide-legs into the mainstream, including the growing buying power of young Gen Z consumers, many of whom don’t think skinny jeans are as cool as their predecessors did. In a recent survey of 7,000 US teens, investment firm Piper Sandler asked what the top fashion trends were among females in school. Leggings topped the list, with 23% of respondents calling them out. But “baggy/saggy pants” and “mom jeans”—generally a high-rise style with a looser fit—were numbers two and three, named by 9% and 8% of respondents respectively.

The pandemic may be accelerating the turn toward fuller silhouettes too, pushing comfort even further up shoppers’ list of priorities.

Levi’s itself has been peddling the high-rise, loose-fit look Bergh talked about since at least 2016, when it introduced the accurately named “Wedgie jean.” Though Bergh has also noted skinny jeans are still an important part of Levi’s business and may not fully disappear.

In our fragmented universes, with algorithms to help us curate what we see on social media and the shows we watch online, trends aren’t as monolithic as they used to be. Skinny jeans can conceivably coexist alongside their slouchier cousins, just in a diminished role. That is until the day they’re more popular again.

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