Skip to main content

Straight-Leg Jeans Dethrone Skinnies

Straight fits are the new skinny jeans.

The NPD Group published data Monday showing that straight-leg jeans are the new top-selling fit among women in the U.S., surpassing the once universally popular skinny jean. In fact, the latter was the only jeans style to experience a revenue decline in 2021 from 2019, the market research firm found.

Straight-leg styles accounted for one-third, or $3.3 billion, of women’s jeans market revenue in 2021. Also gaining traction in this segment are flare and boot-cut jeans, as more relaxed styles attract consumers looking for something new, and denim trends from decades past return.

“Comfort apparel trends accelerated by the pandemic shifted jeans trends towards looser fits,” said Maria Rugolo, The NPD Group apparel industry analyst. “The rise in various styles has opened up consumers of all ages and generations to more variety and options at just the right time. Consumers were looking to branch out beyond the styles that had been sitting in their closets for over a year.”

But while roomier fits are taking over the scene for trend-conscious young consumers, older generations are sticking with the skinny styles they know and love. The NPD Group indicated that baby boomers, people born between 1946 and 1964, increased their spending on the fit and accounted for 12 percent of all women’s skinny jeans sold in the U.S. last year, a three-share-point increase from 2019.

Silhouette preferences have varied from generation to generation ever since the new cycle reared its head. Following the February 2021 skinny jeans takedown launched by Gen Z TikTokers, millennials initially fought back on social media, creating a temporary divide among the younger cohorts. But by August, retail analytics provider Edited noted that mom jeans, defined by their high rise and relaxed fit, showed the highest number of sellouts at millennial-focused retailers. The same report indicated that baby boomers were partial to skinny and straight styles, while Gen Z counterparts was much more willing to experiment. These young consumers opted for straight-leg jeans, followed by relaxed, wide and boyfriend fits. Gen Z men looked for similar qualities, such as relaxed, stretch, loose and oversized jeans.

While they may not agree on fits, all demographics can agree that denim is a top fixture in their wardrobe—and the post-pandemic urge to return to socializing helped fuel the category’s popularity. NPD reported a 9 percent increase in overall revenue from women’s jeans in 2021 compared to 2019. It attributed the spike to consumers’ return to a more normal schedule, with offices, schools and social venues lowering or eliminating their restrictions.

Related Story

Brands are responding to denim’s new cycle with new collections offering various fits. Denim’s success has also inspired labels like contemporary women’s brand Ulla Johnson and Australian label Emma Mulholland on Holiday to branch out of their standard offerings and introduce their first denim collections.

“With many people wondering how consumers might choose to dress up in the future, denim now has the opportunity to be on both ends of the spectrum,” Rugolo said. “It can help fulfill casual everyday needs, while also offering a versatile, dressy option for those not ready or willing to get back into structured wardrobes. Having consumers interested in various fits, styles and uses keeps the overall category trendy and brings interest and sales along with it.”