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What Does the Streetwear Trend Mean for Denim?

Fashion’s present embrace of streetwear bodes well for the denim category. Whether it’s transformative designs made from deconstructed denim, or back-to-basics high-waisted mom and dad styles, jeans are a likely pairing for streetwear’s core items: graphic logo tees and sneakers.

And that’s what makes this strain of streetwear different from previous iterations—it’s democratic, in that when it comes to denim, anything goes.

“There’s a broader idea of what streetwear is nowadays,” Karen Moon, CEO and co-founder of Trendalytics, said.

Whereas in the past street was solely about youth culture, Moon says the current look for denim as streetwear runs the gamut from wide and baggy, to fitted, stylized and even tailored. “It’s individualistic,” she said, noting that as streetwear becomes more mainstream, it will create new opportunities for all markets—especially denim.

The rise of streetwear has certainly invited new opportunities for women’s denim brands to experiment outside the confines of the skinny jean. For one, the trend has created a shift in women’s silhouettes, Katie Smith, retail analysis and insights director for Edited, said, adding that “a wider and more square aesthetic is now leading.” What’s more, Smith said, “Layering has become more playful and innovative, with a mixing up of weights and lengths.”

For Spring ’19, Kelly Helfman, vice president of UBM Fashion, sees women’s brands going in one of two directions: boss lady chic with man-tailoring, or full-fledged street. “Women wearing menswear suiting will continue to be strong, but denim will stay,” Helfman said. “Designers will take more risks with street inspiration.”

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From drop crotch to baggy denim, Helfman said the voluminous denim shapes are already in stores and their presence there will grow.

And as mass market increasingly adopts streetwear, Smith says brands are finding more ways to reflect the trend in the denim category. “We’re seeing that come through as an increasing number of non-jean denim garments, such as denim jackets, coats, shirts, vests, skirts and dresses. These garments are innovative with pockets, fastenings and silhouettes, but still give off that nonchalant streetwear aesthetic thanks to the casual feel of the fabric,” she said.

The style is really a continuation of the ’90s fashion revival. That influence, Smith said, is seen through shapes, like cargo pants and washes, specifically the mid-blue wash that was so popular throughout the decade.

Cosigning that, Helfman said, “With the ’80s and ’90s influencing fashion, denim is getting wider and streetwear is influencing our looks more than ever…Wider legs are not going anywhere.”

Streetwear also lends itself well to the ongoing buzz surrounding the genderless fashion category. As Smith pointed out, street has pushed a less gender-defined aesthetic, which is influencing both the men’s and women’s markets.

“Street garments have cross-appeal, with women shopping from menswear lines and some brands catering to this with unisex lines,” she said. Across genders, Smith says she sees a general loosening of silhouette, with wider fit jeans, puffed-out jackets and longer-line top. “Playing with these proportions is how streetwear will continue to reinvent and remain relevant,” she said.