There’s a movement in the denim industry that detracts from the back-to-basics styles that many insiders foresaw for the category. One year into the pandemic, after months of finding novelty in wearing tie-dye sweats, leggings, shorts and elevated pajamas, new data from the fashion search platform Lyst shows signs that consumers are circling back to jeans.
The TikTok-manufactured generational debate on skinny jeans versus wide-leg is evidence of this denim rebirth. With brands like Levi’s introducing the High Loose fit, a modern interpretation of a ’90s-era wide-leg, and designers like Balenciaga, Tom Ford and Etro serving baggy denim looks on the runway, the pool of looser silhouettes for consumers to choose from has certainly widened.
Over the past three months, Lyst stated that searches for wide-leg and boyfriend styles have been growing at a faster pace, up 148 percent compared with the same period last year. And the trend has multitier appeal. Fast-fashion retailers H&M and Kut from the Kloth, a women’s brand known for its under $100 price point, are among the most popular brands for these comfy styles, as well as the designer streetwear label Vetements, Lyst reported.
Additionally, the prevalence of images on social media that show trendsetters—past and present like Princess Diana, Caroline Bessette-Kennedy, Cindy Crawford, Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber—wearing straight-leg jeans is keeping the classic fit top of mind. Looking at the past quarter year-on-year, Lyst said searches for straight-leg jeans are up 145 percent.
Gen Z’s seal of approval for wider fits, however, might be overblown. Despite the fast growth of looser styles, Lyst said interest in skinny jeans hasn’t decreased. Searches for the form-fitting fit during this same time frame climbed 107 percent. Levi’s 501 skinny jeans, Asos’ contouring jeans and Amiri’s distressed jeans have all seen a lift.
In fact, the intrigue in Amiri’s California-inspired rocker aesthetic, points to a rising demand in distressed denim in general. Though there has been much talk about heritage and workwear—trends that emphasis the durability of denim—Lyst said distressed denim is “having a moment” with searches for the style growing 91 percent month-on-month.
Ripped knees are the most sought-after distressed look. Lyst noted that page views the style are up 37 percent week-on-week, and it has multigenerational appeal. Baggy boyfriend and straight-leg cuts are the most popular when searching for distressed denim, but demand for “ripped skinny jeans” is also growing quickly, up 50 percent since February.
Despite the distressed denim trend, which can be achieved through manual and laser finishing, consumers are better acquainted with the category’s efforts to be more environmentally-friendly. Searches for jeans including sustainability-related keywords have spiked 138 percent in the past three months, Lyst stated. Page views for “recycled” and “organic” denim have increased 229 percent and 119 percent respectively.
Indeed, brands are inundating consumers with new sustainable collections. Since the start of the year, Marks & Spencer, Cos and Mango bowed lower-impact denim collections. Lee and H&M’s collaboration brought 100 percent recycled cotton jeans to the masses. Levi’s and Ganni spun a whimsical look for cottonized hemp jeans, and Weekday bowed the first jeans made with regenerated textile fiber, Infinna. And both Mother and Outerknown introduced denim collections made with upcycled post-consumer denim, proving how the look can be integrated to suit just about anyone’s personal style.
Resale initiatives like Levi’s SecondHand and Tommy for Life appear to be warming consumers up to the idea of wearing pre-owned denim, too. Page views for pre-owned jeans have also risen 68 percent in the past three months, Lyst reported.
This bump in searches for pre-owned denim is likely tied to consumers’ enduring love for vintage jeans. But when they can’t nab the real deal, consumers are open to trying new jeans that incorporate retro details.
Searches for patchwork jeans reached an all-time high in January and over the last three months have increased by 200 percent, Lyst reported. More specifically, searches for straight-leg patchwork jeans are up 44 percent and searches for wide-leg patchwork jeans are up 51 percent.
The DIY trend that has pervaded fashion since the start of the pandemic is opening the door for more creative versions of patchwork denim as well. The search term “bandana patchwork jeans” is also trending in searches, with the most wanted brands for this denim style being Jaded London, Etro, Amiri, and Dolce & Gabbana. It’s a pattern used in Mother’s upcycled collection, as well as the Levi’s for Target home line.
Another trend to watch is linked to vintage styles. Lyst described split-hem jeans as one of the “hottest denim trends for spring,” noting that trendsetters like Hailey Bieber and Katie Holmes have been seen sporting them recently. Searches for jeans including the terms “split-hem” and “split-leg” increased collectively 40 percent over the past three months. The most popular styles include Reformation’s Peyton slit-hem boot-cut jeans and Paige’s black split-hem flare jean.
Searches for gray denim—perhaps spurred by it being named one Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2021—and white denim, specifically for men, have grown triple digits in the last three months. Light washed denim, however, maintains its universal appeal for spring.
Over the past month, searches for “light washed” denim pieces increased 53 percent over the past month, Lyst reported, while searches for “faded jeans” jumped 49 percent with blue, gray and black the most sought-after colors.
But consumers’ searches get even more nuanced than that. Trending searches, Lyst noted, include “straight washed-blue jeans,” “light-washed baggy jeans” and “night-washed denim jackets.”