Everybody used to wear jeans. But not anymore. (Thinkstock)
Everybody used to wear jeans. But not anymore.

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Americans' obsession with jeans is beginning to wear thin.

Jeans long have been a go-to staple in closets across the country. After all, not many pieces of clothing are so comfortable they can be worn daily, yet versatile enough to be dressed up or down.

But sales of the iconic blues fell 6 percent during the past year after decades of almost steady growth. Why? People more often are sporting yoga pants and leggings instead of traditional denim.

The shift is partly due to a lack of new designs since brightly colored skinny jeans were a hit a couple years back. It's also a reflection of changing views about what's appropriate attire for work, school and other places that used to call for more formal attire.

"Yoga pants have replaced jeans in my wardrobe," said Anita Ramaswamy, a Scottsdale, Arizona high-school senior who is buying more leggings and yoga pants than jeans. "You can make it as attractive as skinny jeans, and it's more comfortable."

To be sure, the jeans business isn't dead. Customer Growth Partners, a retail consultancy, estimates denim accounts for 20 percent of annual sales at the nation's department stores.

But sales of jeans in the U.S. fell 6 percent to $16 billion during the year that ended in June, according to market research firm NPD Group, while sales of yoga pants and other "active wear" climbed 7 percent to $33.6 billion.

And Levi Strauss, which invented the first pair of blue jeans 141 years ago, is among jean makers that acknowledge their business has been hurt by what the fashion industry dubs the "athleisure" trend. That's led them to create new versions of classic denim that are more "stretchy" and mimic the comfort of sweatpants.

Jeans have faced other rough patches. One came in the mid-1970s, when denim sales fell 3 to 4 percent, while corduroy pants surged in popularity, with sales rising 10 to 12 percent, according to NPD estimates.

Fashion watchers say the latest decline could be the longest. The "athleisure" trend is the biggest threat jeans have faced because it reflects a fundamental lifestyle change, said Amanda Hallay, assistant clinical professor of fashion merchandising at LIM College in Manhattan.

"Everyone wants to look like they're running to the gym, even if they're not," she said.

Critical thinking challenge: Name two specific factors that led to the drop in jeans sales. Are these factors likely to change in the future?

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Assigned 61 times

  • NashMcComsey-Ste
    9/11/2014 - 09:59 a.m.

    To me, seeing denim jeans begin to leave as a full staple of american clothes is no surprise. Originally, jeans were designed to be practical. The fact that they also had fashionable value to them as well was not part the original use, but that's what made them a staple of the clothing market for such a long time. However, they just don't have the same comfort value as what is available in the market today, and we are coming into a time in america where comfort is valued indefinetly over practicality, and partially over looks. Now that there are pants that can be worn that are both comfortable and fashionable, they will attract consumers more than something like denim jeans. However, denim jeans will not entirely die as a fad, for the same reason they didn't die when they were invented. They are practical, and cheap to make, and while most american consumers may not place those qualities as a priority, there will always be a market for cheap, durable, and practical pants, so jeans still have a long run ahead of them.

  • EmilyJ1324
    9/11/2014 - 10:27 a.m.

    The two factors that led to the drop in jeans sales are yoga pants and leggings. These factors most likely will not change in the future because more and more people wear them to be comfortable. My opinion about this is that I personally wear leggings and yoga pants around the house to be comfortable. Some people still wear jeans but there mostly skinny jeans so they fit like leggings and yoga pants. I still wear jeans when i go out somewhere with family.

  • andres-Koc
    9/11/2014 - 08:05 p.m.

    This is very interesting to read because it is saying that people are not wearing jeans as much as they used too. It is kind of showing how we are looking for something more comfortable to wear instead of just jeans.

  • sl2000soccer
    9/12/2014 - 08:41 a.m.

    One specific factor that led to the drop in jeans sales are that people are wearing more athletic clothes because they are more comfortable than jeans as well as more fashionable.Another thing that replaced jeans are the leggings that people wear because leggings are more comfortable than jeans and come in many colors and patterns, that jeans do not. These factors are likely to change in the future because we all know after a few years new trends come along and people wear different clothing just like what happened with jeans. I am pretty sure people will still wear leggings, athletic clothes and jeans a hundred years from now, but not as much as they did in this age.

  • ShaniaWentz-Ste
    9/12/2014 - 08:55 a.m.

    I think that jeans are very comfy. I own about 5-7 pairs of jeans. I love jeans, but i also love yoga pants and leggings. They are all super comfy and stylish. I hope that jeans make a comeback ASAP!

  • cassiec-Mil
    9/12/2014 - 12:07 p.m.

    I think this article is true about the popularity of jeans. Jeans are becoming less popular because they have started making yoga pants and leggings which are just as comfortable as sweatpants but not as baggy. In my opinion jeans are my favorite. Jeans look nicer than yoga pants, sweatpants, or leggings, but again that's what think.

  • RM00charlie
    9/12/2014 - 01:02 p.m.

    one reason that the sale of jeans dropped was because more people are supporting yoga pants and leggings . another reason is because people are saying that yoga pants and leggings are just more comfy then denim jeans

  • icegits
    9/12/2014 - 02:04 p.m.

    I still like jeans, but i can see why other people don't. they are uncomfortable when wet, heavy, and only a few of them are as flexible as yoga pants.

  • TaylorSeifert-Ste
    9/12/2014 - 02:27 p.m.

    I guess no one likes to do yoga in jeans anymore. Jeans are the only thing I have in my closet, so if they are out of style I guess I have nothing to wear. Time to go shopping!

  • CThomas-Cas
    9/13/2014 - 04:44 p.m.

    I think it's a good thing for the Jean makers to start changing the old look. I know that if jeans were more like sweatpants, I would wear them all the time.

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