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Gen Z Nixes Skinny Jeans But Gives Low-Rise the OK

The same generation that rendered skinny jeans dead is now giving low-rise jeans a new level of clout, according to new data by global fashion search platform Lyst.

Looking at the past month, Lyst reported that year-on-year searches for low-rise jeans are up 57 percent. The most searched for styles alongside the keyword “low rise” include flared as well as baggy jeans, with the latter having increased 110 percent year-on-year.

The most in-demand styles include BDG’s baggy low-rise wide-leg jeans, Rag & Bone’s slim boyfriend, and Citizens of Humanity’s racer low-rise skinny jeans.

The cyclical nature of fashion—especially denim—meant the return of the Y2K style was inevitable. Gen Z’s infatuation with the era’s fashion has already manifested into a series of comebacks this spring, spanning velour jumpsuits, baguette bags and cropped tops, to platform sandals, scarf tops and butterfly motifs. Exposed thongs—a side effect of the low-rise jeans—and bottoms with hip bone cut-outs are blips to watch on fashion’s radar as well.

Even the unofficial poster child of Gen Z fashion, Bella Hadid, gave low-rise jeans the green light when she recently sported a pair by another early aughts relic, Von Dutch.

The return of the low-rise jean, however, is likely draw the ire of millennial women who already lived through the trend—not to mention the contradictory nature of Gen Z’s motion to cancel figure-hugging skinny jeans but give its polarizing predecessor the thumbs-up.

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The early aughts was wrought with images of svelte pop stars and reality television figures dressed in low-rise flare jeans and midriff-baring tops until around 2008 when consumers began to retreat to skinny jeans with higher rises. As jeans grew skinnier, rises climbed, leading brands like Levi’s to introduce the Ribcage, a women’s jean with a waist-cinching 12-inch rise.

In comparison, low-rise jeans have up to an 8-inch rise.

But will early signs of low-rise jeans’ rebounding mark the beginning of high-rise jeans’ demise? Not so fast, according to the executives of U.S. denim giants.

Though women’s jeans are indeed shifting from skinny to wider fits, Jennifer Foyle, AEO chief creative officer, recently said high rises remain an overarching theme in women’s denim and continues to influence the types of tops the brand designs.

Likewise, Levi Strauss & Co. president and CEO Chip Bergh said the company’s newest success story is the High Loose jean. Described as a modern interpretation of a classic ’90s style, the jean boasts a 13-inch rise and 20-inch leg openings.

“We launched this high-rise loose fit in early 2020, just as the pandemic was happening, and it was a relatively small collection at first, and it really just took off,” Bergh said. “And so, we’ve expanded it and have continued to build on it. It’s now been followed by all of our key competitors.” These new silhouettes, he added, will continue to give consumers a reason to buy Levi’s as people emerge from the pandemic.