Everybody used to wear jeans. But not anymore.
Americans' obsession with jeans is beginning to wear thin.
Jeans long have been a go-to staple in closets across the country. 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 denim blues fell 6 percent during the past year. That's after decades of almost steady growth. Why? People more often are sporting yoga pants and leggings.
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 and school.
"Yoga pants have replaced jeans in my wardrobe," said Anita Ramaswamy, a Scottsdale, Arizona high-school senior. "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. That's according to market research firm NPD Group. Sales of yoga pants and other "active wear" climbed 7 percent to $33.6 billion.
Levi Strauss invented blue jeans 141 years ago. Now the company is among jean makers that acknowledge their business has been hurt. 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. 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.
"Everyone wants to look like they're running to the gym, even if they're not," said Professor Amanda Hallay of LIM College in Manhattan.
Critical thinking challenge: Name two specific factors that led to the drop in jeans sales. Are these factors likely to change in the future?