Long jeans may not be the picture of summer fashion, but that perception is changing.
“Denim can be thought of as hot and lacking breathability,” said Denise Sakuma, The Lycra Company global director of ready-to-wear/denim. “During summer consumers expect lightweight fabrics that breathe, allow you to move around easily, and do not trap heat or sweat yet are strong and will not tear apart.”
The denim sector, however, has been chipping away at preconceived notions that denim doesn’t belong in summer wardrobes with fabrics that adapt and respond to the environment and lifestyle of the wearer.
Brands like Mother Denim, Paige and Frame ramped up their assortments of jean Bermuda shorts—a style that began to pick up momentum in May. Mavi made a strong case for white jeans this summer offering skinny, slouchy and flare fits as well as adding a new style, the Bodrum, to the mix. The high-rise wide leg jean is made with 11 oz. fabric and features an airy cut cropped hem. Meanwhile, direct-to-consumer Mott & Bow touted jeans made with its Benton fabric, a 11.8 oz. denim with comfort stretch qualities, as “summer jeans.”
And there is a science behind summer denim.
The Lycra Company, for one, has technology solutions for lightweight fabric requirements. The company’s The Science of Fit program focuses on fiber innovations that provide stretch and recovery while maintaining strength and durability—which Sakuma noted is especially important during the summer months when consumers tend to wash their clothes more frequently.
Among the solutions are Lycra Freefit technology, which boasts easy stretch and open fabric construction and Lycra T400 fiber that Sakuma said “delivers good stretch comfort, excellent recovery power and moisture management that wicks moisture away from the skin and is permanent.”
And for warm seasons, Lycra’s range of Coolmax fibers is a given. When applied in jeans, the fibers result in comfort performance, staying cooler as the wearer feels drier against the skin.
In 2016, the company bowed a sustainable version, Coolmax EcoMade, made with from 100 percent post-consumer PET. “Coolmax EcoMade technology delivers cool, dry comfort to denim by moving the moisture away from the body to the outside of the fabric where is spreads and quickly evaporates,” Sakuma said. “The performance is achieved by the unique fiber structure, which means it has long-lasting durability and won’t quickly wash away as a topical treatment will.”
The Coolmax story resonates with consumers that want jeans for wherever the day takes them, she added. Based on a 2016 survey with female consumers, 70 percent expressed interest in purchasing a Coolmax jean, while 75 percent was interested in a special jean for the summer months.
Styling, too, can affect whether a pair of jeans feels cool or warm in the summer.
“Denim is a year-round wardrobe essential but the hardworking fabric isn’t easy to style when it comes to the summer heat,” said Ryan Lombard, DL1961 PR manager.
That doesn’t mean jeans should be relegated to the back of the closet during the summer, however. Lombard said consumers should look for denim with a fresher feel with lighter fabrics, brighter shades and more breathable cuts.
DL1961’s approach to summer denim is to offer its consumer base lightweight fabrications in less-restricting constructions. Additionally, the brand uses botanic, water-efficient fibers such as Tencel and modal that are breathable, have moisture-wicking properties, and are much more sustainable than traditional fibers, Lombard noted.
The brand’s summer jean for women is the Hepburn high-rise wide leg, a vintage-inspired fit offered in white, ecru and a spectrum of indigo washes as well as a cropped version and another with a destroyed hem. The Cecilia classic short, which has a sculpting fit through the waist and hips and a longer inseam for more coverage, is a summer favorite, too.
“Our Cecilia will definitely be your go-to shorts for the warmer weather months,” Lombard said. Other Summer 2020 denim trends to watch, he added, are light-wash jeans, high-waist straight leg jeans, cropped jeans, Trucker jackets and white denim.
Lee Jeans begins to see a shift in buying habits in May, when women start searching for shorts, capris and lighter colorways. Lee’s seasonal denim is a lighter weight fabric and employs technologies that add thermoregulation and moisture-wicking properties.
“We know that about a quarter of women and a little over a third of men who buy Lee have specific jeans that they only wear in summer,” said Brigid Stevens, senior director of Lee marketing. “We theorize that one of the reasons is the fabric feeling lighter, as well as lighter washes and colors.”
White and a light-wash jeans are performing well for Lee, however, Stevens said fits are based on individual preferences. Therefore, the brand offers a variety in summery hues.
“The Lee vintage-inspired flare has been extremely popular, and we offer it in a white-based tie dye—a big trend this summer—as well as an off-white and lighter denim wash,” she said. The brand also offers a white straight-leg jean as well as a skinny that sculpts yet holds its shape.
“Both of these [jeans] balance that authentic feel of denim with slightly lighter fabrics and a touch of stretch for comfort,” she added.
Lee is also seeing interest in lighter and looser cuts for summer. “One of the trends we’ve seen is a drive towards comfort,” Stevens said. Pieces like Lee’s stovepipe jean, which has a shorter length and looser fit, has been a steady and consistent performer for women.
“We know there are some folks who will only wear jeans when inside, and another group have specific jeans that they wear only in the summer,” she said. “But the majority of our shoppers wear jeans several times a week, regardless of the weather.”
One area that doesn’t see a decline in jeans sales during the summer is workwear.
“The workwear consumer needs protection while they are working and will wear long jeans year-round,” said Ashley Marley Farrar, Wrangler Workwear/FR merchandising manager.
Wrangler’s solution to make jeans comfortable in high-temperature environments is Cool Vantage, a proprietary technology that wicks sweat away from the body, pulling moisture to the outside of the garment where it can evaporate quickly.
The exclusive technology hasn’t changed much since Wrangler introduced it five years ago. Combined with Wrangler’s FR protection, Cool Vantage provides enhanced comfort and unrestricted movement, keeping the wearer cool, dry and comfortable no matter what the job entails.
“Jobs that require flame resistant product tend to be in hot working conditions,” Marley Farrar said. “We want to make sure that we not only protect our consumers with the flame-resistant fabrics, but also with a technology that will keep them cool and comfortable every day. We believe that our consumers should not have to sacrifice comfort in order to do their jobs.”