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Nostalgia and Cowboy Heritage Guide Denim Trends for Year Ahead

The year ahead may be full of uncertainty, but trend experts are pointing to denim’s popularity as one of the few things they can be sure of. As consumers around the world face the threat of yet another lockdown, their fashion choices are evolving from sweat suits to more elevated styles, many of which include fashion’s most universal fabric.

Using November 2020 data, product intelligence company Trendalytics’ first report of 2021 points to nostalgic denim as a major theme across a range of demographics, with the women’s and plus-size categories seeing significant style throwbacks.

Data shows that searches for thrifted finds—specifically vintage denim styles like mom jeans, which are up 64 percent year-over-year—are expected to have a big 2021. The trend is confirmed by a number of sources that all point to resale and vintage as top categories to watch as a result of their inherently sustainable properties.

The early aughts leads the nostalgic fashion revolution, with a 76 percent year-over-year increase in searches for oversized jeans defined by the era’s heartthrobs and pop stars. Though low-rise jeans were slated to come back in 2020, Trendalytics said they have yet to show any more traction. On the other hand, butterfly crop tops, flared leggings and velvet joggers from the early 2000s are up 188 percent, 303 percent and 61 percent, respectively.

Shoppers are traveling even further into the past, with ’70s and ’80s denim dominating searches. High-rise flared jeans show a 165 percent increase in searches, followed by high rise bermuda shorts at 350 percent. The trend extends to the plus-size category as well: searches for plus-size denim vests, a “tough guy” statement piece of the ’80s, are up 70 percent.

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In fact, Trendalytics said denim is a “major focus” for the plus-size consumer, as she is “showing an affinity for comfort and effortless styling” for the year ahead. All kinds of fits, from straight-leg to boot-cut to oversized styles, are trending as consumers experiment with denim for different occasions. Cropped, boyfriend, boot-cut and mom jeans are among the styles seeing an uptick in searches. Meanwhile, searches for boot-cut jeans in the plus-size category have increased 147 percent year-over-year.

2021 may also be the year of “cowboy chic,” as celebrated by recent collaborations between Stetson and Taylor Stitch, as well as Lee and Alife’s 2019 collection that merged streetwear and cowboy heritage. Trendalytics data documented spikes in searches for Western-inspired garments like long-sleeve denim dresses, up 55 percent year-over-year. Cow-print jackets, a trend seen on the F/W 20-21 catwalk, and knee-high cowboy boots are also increasing in popularity.

Kids are also finding denim to be a popular choice for 2021, with searches for boys’ denim jackets and chambray shirts up 49 percent and 87 percent year-over-year. For girls, it’s all about the oversized styles, with baggy and wide-leg jeans dominating denim searches.

But potentially the greatest denim trend of 2020 that experts are confident will spill over into 2021 is DIY denim. According to influencer marketing technology platform Traackr, between January and April 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic first began sweeping the world, influencer posts about DIY denim increased by 125 percent, with a 186 percent increase in engagement.

And now, Trendalytics is expecting the trend to infiltrate the men’s market. Searches for men’s patchwork jeans and men’s patched jeans are up 120 percent and 75 percent, respectively.