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. 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?

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Assigned 226 times

  • megan12403
    9/11/2014 - 11:09 a.m.

    I do like jeans but, it has always been hard for me to find the right sized jeans. The jeans are always to big or too small. I do wear jeans when I find a size that fits. I do prefer yoga pants because, I think they are more comfortable than jeans.

  • marissa50802
    9/11/2014 - 12:01 p.m.

    ok i really love jeans but 6% is not alot of losses to me you really need a pair of jeans in the closet what if you need to work? I think if you wear leggans and yoga pants you are not going to work. but leggans souldnt be worn with noting covering the butt it shows though. but..if you put on a skirt you can wear that to church. yoga pants soulnt be worn in school there baggie to me but thats my opinon! but everyone has a diffrent opinon if we didnt wouldnt it be a boring world? :)

  • avery786
    9/11/2014 - 01:39 p.m.

    i love wearing jeansi cons because ider myself a country boy. i like jeans because they look good with boots, they are comfortable,and they keep my legs warm.

  • LukePGray
    9/11/2014 - 01:56 p.m.

    I don't where anything other then jeans, I sleep in my jeans I think that girls how switched to "Yoga pants" and not jeans, I still see a lot of people wearing jeans though

  • Jo K.
    9/11/2014 - 02:01 p.m.

    I, personally, love to wear jeans. but on most day, yoga pants or jeggings just seem more comfortable and stylish! I never knew how many other people have given up jeans for all these other pants! :O

  • Jo K.
    9/11/2014 - 02:02 p.m.

    I, personally, love to wear jeans. but on most day, yoga pants or jeggings just seem more comfortable and stylish! I never knew how many other people have given up jeans for all these other pants! :O

  • malachit
    9/11/2014 - 02:02 p.m.

    I like to wear jeans heck I am wearing them right now. I see plenty of people wearing them. I guess People are shifting towards athletic looks with shorts and stuff

  • leslieeee25
    9/11/2014 - 03:17 p.m.

    I still wear jeans sometimes i will wear leggings on days i have to swim for school or for a long car ride i don't usually wear leggings

  • LoganF-Kuy
    9/11/2014 - 03:55 p.m.

    people used to wear jeans an dnow they don't but now someone did now named Levi Strauss and he found out blue jeans seens a log time ago.

  • MarlyEscobarFall
    9/11/2014 - 09:16 p.m.

    This article talks about the recent crisis which jeans business is going through.
    According to the NPD group's market research, sales of jeans fell six percent between 2013-2014, and sales of yoga pants have climbed seven percent in the same period, so people are replacing jeans by this kind of "active wear".
    The article explains the two reasons why this might happen: first, lacking of new designs since brightly colored skinny jeans were trendy the past few years, and second, a changed in the view of what's appropriate to wear in school and job. Besides there's an 'athleisure' trend reflecting a developed lifestyle in which seem like you're going to the gym is very important.
    In my personal opinion, jeans will never be out of fashion. Maybe now they are not so trendy, but I'm sure they'll remain their fundamental place in our wardrobe.

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