Reports of the skinny jean’s death have been greatly exaggerated

June 13, 2016 - fall Denim

Caption +
A woman wearing skinny jeans checks her cell phone outside the Urban Outfitters store in San Francisc in August 2011; lately, Urban Outfitters’ Free People label has tried to push wider jean bottoms in an effort to stay in front of fashion trends.MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by David Paul Morris.

Sorry, haters. Skinny jeans aren’t going away soon.

Figure-hugging denim has been a staple of women’s wardrobes since the mid-2000s. Even as different styles saw fashion booms and busts in recent years, nothing truly has threatened the supremacy of the skinny. It’s the essential style; all others are auxiliary.

Many have declared the death of the skinny jean. From influential fashion blogs such as WhoWhatWear to online hotsheets such as BuzzFeed, skinny jeans are being called a fizzling trend. Nonetheless, no single style has been able to gain a following sufficient to pressure the skinny – much less dethrone it – and it’s likely to be awhile before one does.

According to March data from trend forecasting firm WGSN, skinny jeans make up 54 percent of new full-price jean assortments in stores – the merchandise you see on typical store racks. No other style comes close.

“The skinny jean is not dead,” said Sidney Morgan-Petro, a retail analyst at WGSN. “It just has more competition now.”

That competition remains weak. Store shelves are selling fewer bootcut and boyfriend jeans than last year, at less than 10 percent each. While flares have seen a large increase, to 11 percent, it’s still nowhere close to unseating the skinny. Slim fit jeans stand at 14 percent. The closest rival is the cropped style, at 25 percent. But that particular cut overlaps with many others, including the skinny. (Skintight jeans that stop midcalf count as both skinny and cropped, for instance.)

Most retailers, if not all, still bank on the skinny to drive sales volume because that’s what the masses demand. Street and runway styles pushing wider jeans have yet to convince the populace to switch. For instance, a recent trend in ’70s clothes sparked a spike in flared jeans. The latest entrant is high-waisted flares cropped above the ankle, popularized by designer Rachel Comey. Fashion show catwalks last fall were chock-full of baggier denim, but the style was less prominent one season later, according to WGSN’s runway show analysis.

The top women’s style before the skinny proliferated was the bootcut: denim that widened at the calf and engulfed the foot. But that was a long time ago: You’d have to go all the way back to the early 2000s, an age of rhinestone-encrusted Juicy Couture tracksuits, popped collar polos and Britney Spears in her pop star prime.

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