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If Gen Z Cancels Skinny Jeans, Will Others Follow?

Denim may be the people’s fabric, but it’s not without its silos. Though denim heads have talked about the demise of the skinny jean for some time, the fit has topped brands’ bestseller lists, remaining one of the most popular styles for women worldwide.

But the younger generation isn’t having it. Gen Z recently started a movement to dethrone skinny jeans, and it’s taking place on none other than the cohort’s virtual battleground: social media. Countless Gen Z users on TikTok and Instagram have posted video clips recently insisting that skinny jeans are canceled and that millennials—the style’s seemingly biggest fans—should stop wearing them if they want to appear younger.

Some users went as far as urging others to throw away their skinny jeans, cut them up or even set them on fire—a sentiment that’s out of character for the cohort, which is often touted for its commitment to sustainability and anti-bullying.

Though harsh, the younger generation may be onto something. Data from retail market intelligence platform Edited indicates there’s a distinct shift to looser styles across the board. In December, sellouts of men’s relaxed and straight fits were up 15 percent and 13 percent year-over-year, respectively, and sellouts of women’s wide-leg, straight and paper-bag styles were up 97 percent, 69 percent and 24 percent year-over-year, respectively.

Product intelligence company Trendalytics’ first report of 2021 points to throwback denim as a major theme across a range of demographics as well. 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.

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Still, trend analysts aren’t predicting an end to skinny jeans any time soon. Edited market analyst Kayla Marci noted that the style will simply need to evolve with changing consumer demands and incorporate elements like hygiene and functionality. She noted that material innovations such as antimicrobial finishing and compression technology are a good place to start.

Brands continue to drop denim collections focused on skinny styles, including AG jeans’ seamless denim and NYDJ’s SpanSpring line—both of which enhance the popular style with added comfort and functional properties.

AG Jeans debuted a seamless denim product that removes the tuxedo stripe from jeans to offer a more streamlined, body-contouring look.
AG Seamless Denim Courtesy

While Gen Z may have an aversion to skinny jeans, millennials for the most part remain unwavering in their love for the body-hugging silhouette. For every Gen Z user that trolls skinny jeans on social media, there appears to be a millennial defending them.

Generation-specific style is another factor to consider, as Gen Z has an aesthetic of its own. In early 2020, Edited reported that trends such as glitter, rainbow color palettes and gender-fluid styles would be on the rise as a result of the growing Gen Z population. The cohort’s affinity for nostalgic fashion could bring back styles from the ’00s—a decade known by fashion-loving millennials as the low-rise jeans era, it added.