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Why demand for jeans persists across the decades

Elizabeth Trovall Apr 4, 2024
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What do all of these February 2024 New York Fashion Week attendees have in common? Christian Vierig, Daniel Zuchnik and Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

Why demand for jeans persists across the decades

Elizabeth Trovall Apr 4, 2024
Heard on:
What do all of these February 2024 New York Fashion Week attendees have in common? Christian Vierig, Daniel Zuchnik and Edward Berthelot/Getty Images
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There’s this song on the new Beyoncé album, “Cowboy Carter.” It’s an ode to denim and is called “Levii’s Jeans.” And hey, if the topic is good enough for Beyoncé, it’s good enough for us.

Levi Strauss has been making jeans — once called “waist overalls” — since the 1870s. And jeans have had remarkable staying power throughout the decades. Even now, as shoppers turn to cargo pants and comfy alternatives, jeans remain a staple of the American wardrobe.

It’s hard to think of anything quite as American as a pair of blue jeans; they were first sold to folks out West, including miners, ranchers and farmers. 

“That’s why they used to call them ‘farmer jeans’ or ‘farmer overalls,’” said Shawn Grain Carter with the Fashion Institute of Technology. “But in the ’70s, denim became a designer commodity for the masses.” 

Thanks to brands like Calvin Klein. And jeans appealed to different age groups – take this old Levi’s commercial featuring a boy and his dog:

Part of denim’s staying power comes from its ability to adapt to the trends of each generation. 

“You can see seniors, baby boomers, Gen X as well as millennials, Gen Z and Alpha all wearing some type of denim fashion today in 2024,” Grain Carter said. 

Whether dark wash, light wash, skinny, ripped, distressed, stretch — there’s always a new twist.

These days, “people want the baggy, wide, kind of voluminous look on the bottom in terms of silhouette,” Grain Carter said. “So you’re starting to see that reflect in jeans.”

But that doesn’t mean demand for denim doesn’t fray from time to time.

Lately, “there has been a slowdown with denim. We’ve had more excitement or more of a trend — especially with the younger consumer, lean towards softer bottoms,” said Jessica Ramírez, an analyst with Jane Hali and Associates.  

Like cargos or a tailored pant in a softer fabric, for example. But jeans aren’t going anywhere. Trends will be recycled – and so will the textile itself as the industry has become more environmentally sensitive. 

“It is more of a fabric that lends itself toward sustainability,” Ramírez said. 

Whether thrifted, upcycled or recycled, blue jeans have proven to be quite durable. 

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