Levi’s CEO says a quarter of us are now wearing a new size

Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh says a quarter of customers have a new size since the pandemic started.
Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh says a quarter of customers have a new size since the pandemic started.
Image: Reuters/Brendan McDermid
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If you’ve recently needed to buy new pants because you gained or dropped a few pounds during the pandemic, you are definitely not alone.

“The number of people who are in a new size is pretty staggering,” Chip Bergh, CEO of Levi’s, told the Associated Press in an interview. “Some people gained weight during the pandemic, and many people lost weight. But both on the men’s side of the business and women’s side. More than 25% of consumers have a new size today.”

Bergh didn’t say whether he was talking about American shoppers specifically. More than half of Levi’s sales last year took place outside the US. But the US certainly demonstrates the point. The pandemic put a huge amount of stress on Americans and limited daily activity for many. Some went outdoors to keep moving while others have been more sedentary—or coped with food or alcohol. One consequence has been a lot of weight change.

Gaining 1.5 lbs a month

One small study of 269 subjects found their lifestyle shifts translated into a gain of 1.5 lbs each month. In a recent survey of about 3,000 US adults by the American Psychological Association, 42% of respondents reported undesired weight gain. The average amount of weight put on was 29 lbs. The survey also found 18% of respondents saying they lost more weight than they wanted, with the average loss coming in at 26 lbs.

As Bergh’s comments indicate, the results are changing American waistlines, and apparently rippling through to clothing sales. After the pandemic put non-essential spending on pause for many, Americans have been shopping for fashion again, probably due to a combination of factors including falling Covid-19 infection rates, government stimulus checks, and the desire to unleash their pent-up demand. Levi’s is likely not the only company seeing customers shopping for new sizes too, while Bergh also pointed to the resurgence of wider-leg denim styles as contributing to the ongoing wardrobe refresh the company is seeing among its customers.