Is Denim Fading Into Fashion Obscurity?

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Sales of jeans are down 6 percent in the U.S. as fashion choices move toward active and casual.

Denim is singing the blues.

Sales of the American-born fashion staple have plummeted, according to NBC News. The NPD Group, a market research company, told NBC that domestic jean sales declined by 6 percent last year.

“A 6 percent drop may not seem like much, but it’s rare for denim to take such a dramatic drop. It’s a commodity business, we buy it and replenish it all the time,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst of The NPD Group.

Jeans have been an American uniform for decades. But Americans’ love affair with jeans isn’t what it used to be. Women prefer “athleisure” clothing these days, a comfort-based casual clothing that includes yoga pants, leggings and jeggings. NBC said:

“There isn’t an ‘it’ item for back-to-school like we had two years ago,” said Dana Telsey, CEO and chief research officer at Telsey Advisory Group. “What there are, there are certainly dusters and dresses, there’s these crop tops that seem to be working and anything with the athletic bent. Athletic and activewear are certainly the new everyday wear and that’s happening no matter what age people are.”

VF Corp., the maker of Lee and Wrangler jeans, has taken a hit in jean sales, primarily among women. Its Lee brand declined about 15 percent in the U.S., NBC said. But it’s not alone.

Fortune said:

VF’s jeans problem echoes that of Levi Strauss, which last week blamed its quarterly revenue drop in the Americas on “lower sales of women’s products at wholesale.” Guess Jeans similarly reported its North American wholesale revenues fell 10 percent in the quarter ended May 3.

Will jeans continue to fade away? According to NBC:

“Fashion denim is cyclical. Currently, mid- and high-waist denim styles are trending, in addition to soft pants. Denim is still a dominant category for us at Gap and Old Navy, and we are committed to continuous innovation,” said [Gap Inc.] spokeswoman Edie Kissko.

Sure, leggings and yoga pants are comfortable, and I own several pairs, but I won’t be getting rid of my jeans anytime soon. Fashion trends seem to come and go (and then come back again, like acid-washed pants and fluorescent T-shirts), so I don’t think jeans are going to be singing the blues for long.

Are you a denim jeans lover? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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