In fashion, the demise of skinny jeans is now old news. The style to replace them in 2022? That early 00s favourite: low rise jeans.
Now, as then, it’s a case of the lower the waistband the better. Models Emily Ratajkowski and Bella Hadid and singer Dua Lipa have been wearing baggy low rise styles since last summer, often with a yard of exposed midriff. And that other styling trick last seen in the 00s – the ‘whale tail’, or wearing low jeans with the strap of a G-string visible – is back too. Lizzo and Kim Kardashian West have experimented with this look. Ratajkowski, and fellow models Kendall Jenner and Emily Fox have all been seen trying out ‘thong jeans’. Rather than jeans worn low to show the wearer’s underwear, these have the straps pre-sewn into the waistband.
It’s not just celebrities. Searches for low rise jeans are up 58% year on year on global fashion shopping platform Lyst. On resale app Depop, searches are up 36% in the last three weeks. Asos, which sells thong jeans, predicts low rise jeans sales to increase this year.
The trend is part of a wider interest in Y2K style from Gen Z. Alexander McQueen debuted his so-called bumsters in 1996 – trousers worn so low that the top of the wearer’s bum cheeks were exposed – while Tom Ford’s Gucci had visible thong straps, and sometimes just thongs, on the catwalk around the same time. By the early 00s, low rise jeans were worn by celebrities including Keira Knightley, Jennifer Lopez and Destiny’s Child, and the whale tail was on the red carpet, worn by Christina Milian and Pamela Anderson.
Asal Tehrani, the woman behind Bella Hadid’s favourite Depop shop @susamusa, credits this influence of this era. “Low rise jeans are proving popular because of the resurgence of the early 00s,” she says. “I think of Paris Hilton and The Simple Life, Jennifer Lopez and Keira Knightley’s red carpet moment.” Morgane Le Caer, content lead at Lyst, agrees. “From tube tops to velour tracksuits, trends from the 00s have been making a noteworthy comeback among Gen Z shoppers and TikTok users,” she says “so it was only a matter of time before low-rise jeans made it into their wardrobes.” To get the look, Tehrani recommends searching for brands Miss Sixty, Von Dutch and True Religion on vintage apps and sites.
New brands are also involved in the trend. Miaou, a label launched by Alexia Elkaim in 2016 and now known for its corsets, began selling thong pants in 2021. She was directly inspired by “the girls I looked up to in the early 00s representing the whale tails.” She says the thong pants were an instant hit: “our customer base was excited and we sold far more than expected”. While Elkaim wasn’t surprised, she does acknowledge this is a more extreme end of a trend. “It appeals to the girl that is daring enough to show her thong,” she says. “It’s definitely a statement.”
Whether or not low rise jeans will continue to grow as a trend, and eclipse other denim styles, is still unclear. “The question is – will low-rise jeans take over high-rise jeans in 2022?” says La Caer. Tehrani thinks not – because they do not have the same mass appeal. “As much as low rise jeans are iconic, they are definitely a statement piece,” she says. “They are more daring to wear and harder to pull off compared to a classic high waisted fit. I don’t think low rise jeans will become the dominant denim style because they are not made for all body shapes.”