The denim boom celebrated by executives throughout the industry shows no signs of slowing down. A new report from Research and Markets projects that the global denim jeans market will spike to $76.1 billion by 2026, up from $57.3 billion in 2020.
The market research firm attributed the anticipated success to a number of factors, including the casualization movement that has infiltrated the workplace, where jeans are becoming increasingly commonplace. A growing number of young people entering the workforce has also benefitted the denim industry, as the demographic largely opts for more casual office attire.
The projection echoes recent data from retail intelligence platform Edited, which shows denim sellouts were up 10 percent in 2021 from the previous year, and denim sellouts were up 27 percent in the first week of 2022 compared to 2021.
Jeans’ increasing popularity has been a positive subject of focus for Levi Strauss & Co. president and CEO Chip Bergh who, during the heritage denim brand’s most recent earnings call with investors, stated that its jeans growth outpaced apparel in the U.S. in Q4. Compared to 2019, jeans were up 8 percent overall, with women’s up 21 percent and men’s up 6 percent—the highest revenue level since Q4 2015.
Optimism is being felt across the board, with brands like Guess also projecting big wins for the coming year. In an earnings call in November, the company stated it’s confident it will achieve its revenue goal of $2.8 billion in 2024 as a result of this denim-centric period.
Denim’s new look, classified by looser fits, nostalgic silhouettes and embracing color, has helped expand the range of products that are available under this category. The “new cycle” has been well received by consumers who are looking beyond loungewear—specifically in the women’s category. Edited noted that the segment accounted for 44 percent of new denim arrivals in 2021 and made up 63 percent of sellouts. Of the new denim fits, it noted that straight-leg styles are most popular, followed by flares, bootcut and wide-leg.
Also driving denim’s popularity is its ease of access. The report showed that the online shopping segment currently accounts for 17.7 percent of the global jeans market, and is expected to grow at a rate of 9.2 percent over the next seven years. Much of e-commerce’s appeal lies in its convenience, though the report indicates that the digital channel often drives greater cost savings as well. With prices expected to increase as a result of spiking cotton rates and supply chain issues, consumers will likely gravitate towards more affordable shopping methods as they’re presented.
Regionally, the report stated that the U.S. denim market dominates, with a current estimated worth of $15.1 billion and a 24.6 percent share in the global market. America represents the biggest global consumer of denim jeans and has the world’s largest per capita jeans consumer.
Comparatively, China, the world’s second-largest market, is expected to reach $15.5 billion by 2026. Europe is expected to reach $4.6 billion.
Denim market growth is also expected within developing nations such as India, South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and others as a result of Western influence, an increase in women joining the workforce and rising fashion consciousness.
The fashion supply chain is making strides in elevating these countries, with a recent Patagonia deal leading by example. In December, the sustainable apparel giant purchased 30,000 meters (approximately 32,000 yards) of khadi denim fabric through Indian denim mill Arvind to support India’s efforts to bring local craftsmanship to mass denim. Years prior, the mill reached an agreement with the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), an Indian government organization, to market khadi denim products around the world and create a steady stream of work for khadi artisans of the Gujarat region of India—a deal that underscores the Indian prime minister’s “local to global” push to promote the country’s offerings throughout the world.
Similarly, a recycling program pilot, now in its second year, is being tested by Swedish denim brand Nudie Jeans and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) as part of the EU-funded circular accelerator, SwitchMed, to position Tunisia as a denim hub. The pilot has already repurposed 6,530 pairs of second-quality jeans into 16,000 new pairs made of 20 percent recycled cotton, over-performing its initial target of 15,000. Jeans are now available for sale in select Nudie Jeans shops and online.