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The Skinny on Skinny Jeans’ Popularity

Reports of the death of skinny jeans have been exaggerated—but not greatly.

According to a recent report by retail platform Edited, slim denim silhouettes are in serious decline in the men’s sector but they are still the second-most available option in both men’s and women’s (slim in men’s wear and straight in women’s wear are No. 1).

In addition, women are still buying black, mid-wash, coated looks and bum-sculpting skinnies at full price.

Overall, men’s denim deliveries that arrived Jan. 1-July 31, 2022 fell 33 percent compared to the same period last year while women’s rose 2 percent, spurred by the popularity of wide-leg and flare shapes, which saw an increase in deliveries of 53 percent and 85 percent, respectively.

Skinny fits were the most popular jeans shape for both genders in 2021 but their assortment plummeted the most of any other silhouette in 2022, falling 52 percent in men’s and 29 percent in women’s. Retailers say they now view skinnies as more of a core item versus a trend. Boohoo, Express and River Island were among the retailers that reduced their skinny selection the most.

The number of men’s trend-driven skinny styles—think bleached and cargo-pocket details—also fell dramatically year over year. In 2021 they accounted for 48 percent of the tight trousers but that number plummeted to 21 percent in 2022. The number of women’s trendy skinnies remained relatively stable, however, and only fell 5 percent, from 26 percent to 21 percent, year over year. Top-selling looks such as stirrup legs and coated denim have helped keep that category steady.

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The overall decline in numbers was also reflected in retailers’ promotions and customer communications. The retailers the study analyzed sent 61 percent fewer emails mentioning skinny jeans from Jan. 1-July 31, 2021 versus 2022. Sending between 22 to 43 emails in which skinny jeans were referenced in 2021, Aeropostale, Bershka and H&M decreased this to just seven to 10 in 2022.

Of the skinny jeans that landed in the first part of 2022 and sold out without a discount, blue ones made up 63 percent and 61 percent of the men’s wear and women’s wear assortment, respectively; however, light washes were most successful for men’s, while mid-wash versions sold best for women’s. Grays were the next most sold-out color for men’s at 11 percent, while blacks took the No. 2 sell-out spot for women’s at 21 percent. Across womenswear styles, grays beat out whites with H&M having the most success.

In addition, River Island found success with women’s coated skinny jeans and backside-sculpting versions in a variety of colors and washes. In men’s, Gap’s GapFlex stretch style sold out without a discount and Uniqlo offered a skinny jean with removable drawstrings for easy adjustments.

Looking to the future, Edited believes that Y2K influences will infiltrate the silhouette in the coming months and that bestsellers could include Frame’s new Jetset model that lacks rivets, zippers, seams or pockets targeting travel-ready comfort as people return to flying. In men’s, gorpcore and cargo-like details are expected to help the skinny survive.