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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COMMENTS (40)
  • lisas-Koc
    9/14/2014 - 01:33 p.m.

    I think the reason jeans are becoming less popular are because of yoga pants. They're more comfortable and usually less expensive, and they look just as nice. Clothing trends are constantly changing however, jeans may become popular again in another five years or so. Fashion isn't too predictable, but most of us can agree that yoga pants are much more versatile compared to denim.

  • raynac-Koc
    9/15/2014 - 07:34 a.m.

    I believe that the shift change to leggings and yoga pants is rarely due to the fact that women want to to look like they just came from the gym, but are more concerned with the way their body looks in them. Because men will rave about how well their butt looks I them, that they'll decide to wear them more often.

  • TehyaWhite-Ste
    9/15/2014 - 01:10 p.m.

    Although it it obvious that leggings and yoga pants are the new fashion trend, I don't think anything will completely overrun jeans. If you think about it, they've been around for more than 100 years, so they're obviously still here for a reason. Its one of the basic essentials to a wardrobe.

  • TaylorHartman-Ste
    9/15/2014 - 02:25 p.m.

    I personally would choose to wear leggings or yoga pants over jeans any day. I think that wearing leggings looks just as nice as jeans look. Also, I don't think that leggings are any more tighter than jeans are.

  • nhshannahk-Ste
    9/17/2014 - 12:36 p.m.

    I wouldn't expect leggings and yoga pants to take so much profit away from jeans, especially because i'm not the type to wear yoga pants everyday. I actually only have three pairs and I have way more pairs of jeans than three!

  • MasonA-Bri
    9/17/2014 - 03:36 p.m.

    I learned by reading this article that fewer and fewr people in society wear blue jeans, what I know is deffinatly true is that more people are switching to shorts or in girls cases, yoga pants or short shorts. Blue jeans were once very popular in the 80's and 90's but over the years that has changed to a low percentage of people wearing them anymore. I feel that if and/or when the heat starts fading away we will all see more and more jeans being sold and worn more often then not.

  • CesarA-Bri
    9/17/2014 - 04:53 p.m.

    Wow, I didn't know that jean were falling in a deep of sale problem against yoga pant, but believe that what girls buy. I didn't really got an answer if guy switch to short or sweat pant. But overall I like it how the article explain how jean are losing sale and given us the percent on how bad it going on.

  • CesarA-Bri
    9/17/2014 - 04:53 p.m.

    Wow, I didn't know that jean were falling in a deep of sale problem against yoga pant, but believe that what girls buy. I didn't really got an answer if guy switch to short or sweat pant. But overall I like it how the article explain how jean are losing sale and given us the percent on how bad it going on.

  • KiraL-1
    9/17/2014 - 10:43 p.m.

    This article is about the effect of yoga pants replacing jeans in a lot of people's wardrobes. It talks about how the sale of jeans have dropped six percent in one year because more people are buying yoga pants. Because of this decrease in sales, more jean makers are making jeans more stretchy, to try and mimic the comfortableness of the yoga pants. The article does add that this is not the first time the sales of jeans have gone down, and says that in the 1970's, jean sales decreased three to four percent. I wonder if jeans will make a comeback someday. Personally, I have always been a fan of jeans, but recently, I have been starting to get into yoga pants because they are so comfortable and stretchy. I definitely hope jeans will make a comeback soon though.

  • MikaylaStazewski-Ste
    9/18/2014 - 09:24 p.m.

    I completely agree with Anita Ramaswamy in her quote, "You can make it as attractive as skinny jeans, and it's more comfortable", referring to yoga pants. I also feel people are more into yogas because it's just the style nowadays. Trends are always changing and that definitely takes part in jeans declining in popularity.

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