Reports of denim’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
The NPD Group, a consumer trends analyst and leading market research group, recently published a statistic that has driven the world into fervor: Global sales of jeans are down 6 percent year over year. That reported drop has spawned an endless number of think-pieces throughout the mainstream press, all of which have seized the opportunity to resolutely declare the death of denim. The headlines read like prophecies: “Denim Is in Real Danger of Going Out of Fashion,” announces NBC News, while CTV News worries that the “Denim trend may be fading as shoppers opt for comfort.”
But now, hang on a minute. The denim trend? A decline in sales may be significant. But jeans aren’t exactly trucker hats or Uggs—it’s not as though their novelty is about to wear off. Jeans are about as likely to disappear from wardrobes as blazers and oxford shirts, which is to say, not very likely at all. The sort of fluctuation in sales reported by the NPD Group is simply reflective of just how many people in the world wear jeans to begin with—so many that huge numbers can stop wearing them altogether, causing but a negligible dent in their ubiquity. In this particular case, the trend that’s wreaking 6 percent havoc is what retail experts are calling the “athleisure” boom: the popularity among young women, in particular, to wear leggings and yoga pants year-round instead of traditional denim.
Yes, yoga pants seem to be everywhere, and you can well imagine their proliferation having a trickle-down effect on mass-market denim’s bottom line. But to take what is, frankly, a niche market trend and to extrapolate the end of denim for everyone, everywhere, is to seriously misunderstand how important jeans are to the modern world. Among men, in particular, nothing can take the place of the classic pair of jeans; khaki shorts and beige slacks continue to occupy the closets of the less than fashionable, but sensible guys still have and always will regard a pair of blue or black jeans as the go-to item for nearly any occasion.
If anything, we’re in the midst of a golden age for jeans. Selvage denim has never been more popular, meaning guys are starting to better understand and appreciate the quality of what they wear, and better fitting styles have finally overtaken the baggy looks of yore to become industry standard. More encouraging still, jeans are acceptable in more than just casual environments: a pair of well-fitting, high-quality jeans go so well with a blazer and dress shirt that they even look great in formal situations.
So forget the alarmism. Denim isn’t going anywhere—it can’t go out of fashion because it’s more than just in fashion. Denim is a key part of fashion’s very foundation.