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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COMMENTS (304)
  • megan12403
    9/12/2014 - 10:44 a.m.

    Exactly! I do agree. You also need a pair of jeans if u have to go to your friends house and chase cows!! Also very true everyone does have a different opinion even best friends have different opinions.

  • Shabria7668
    9/12/2014 - 10:48 a.m.

    If stores are having problems with jeans dropping then they should create more jeans with a different material or just upgraded to the new style which is yoga pants, leggings, or joggers. But I think in the years that are coming, they are going to make denim yoga pants.

  • Sarahd2001
    9/12/2014 - 10:52 a.m.

    I think a lot of people do wear a lot of leggings but they do wear jeans too. I wear jeans also but not a lot. the yoga pants and leggings are more stretchy and comfortable. A lot of people say that jeans aren't so comfortable.

  • Charisse
    9/12/2014 - 10:53 a.m.

    Children do not really prefer jeans these days. They prefer jeggings, leggings, sweatpants, or things khaki material. Those things are a lot more comfortable to sit in all day. Kids do not want to sit in jeans all day at school, its not comfortable.

  • patricialr
    9/12/2014 - 10:55 a.m.

    People don't were jeans that often because now a days there are leggings and sweatpants which are more comfortable I were jeans mostly thought but hey I'm wearing sweat pants right now.

  • daniyajackson
    9/12/2014 - 10:58 a.m.

    i like the way they look on me, I wear them everyday. leggings and yoga pants from pink have been a really big trend lately. they're comfortable and fast to find outfits for, but personally I like jeans. only because I feel more comfortable in them and they are really comfortable on.

  • Savannah989
    9/12/2014 - 11:00 a.m.

    My closet is mostly jeans, shorts, and sweatpants. They're comfortable and affordable. If the sales a jeans drop, that's a big strike on the jeans empire. My guess is that they will do all in their power to increase sales. The battle for comfortable clothing is on. And jeans are not giving up. So, let's see what they come u with.

  • noel131313
    9/12/2014 - 11:02 a.m.

    I love jeans. I dont think jeans will ever go out of stile. I wear jeans almost every day beacause they are so comfy. I can wear them anywear and they go with every thing.

  • Rileyr6
    9/12/2014 - 11:02 a.m.

    The science connection to this article is that it talks about all the percentages of the increasing and decreasing sales of the jeans. There is also another science connection to this, Levi Strauss invented the jeans 141 years ago. He would have had to use scientific chemicals and methods to invent them.

  • adia200012
    9/12/2014 - 11:02 a.m.

    I wear both jeans and leggings but I do think leggings are more comfortable. Hollister an other jean company's have been making jeggings which are leggings that look like jeans. I think jeggings are more comfortable then jeans due to the soft fabric.

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