Jeans sales go down, money stays in pocket

Jeans apparel companies may be in trouble for socially isolating consumers

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Photo credit: Mnz/Unsplash

Whitney Cummings once described underwire bras as the same feeling a woman gets while leaning over a fence. The discomfort I felt while wearing a real bra after rocking sports bras five out of seven days a week for more than a month made me fully understand where she was coming from. And for the braless bunch who have found other everyday clothing as oddly constricting at home, you know what I mean. Jeans are tying with bras these days as Most Constricting Apparel for work-from-home (or unemployed) workers who have been wearing shorts and yoga pants since March.

In 2015, Complex already opined about whether athleisure would make jeans go out of style. If you’re fresh off the street and have no need to change once you get to a spin class or yoga class, you’re wearing athleisure clothing. According to Alala, the rundown of athleisure includes yoga pants, sneakers, jogging pants, tank tops (i.e. wifebeaters), leggings, tights, shorts and sweatpants.

A total of 1.4 million people filed unemployment claims for the first time last week due to COVID-19 — and that’s adding on to the 54.1 million in the past five months who have sought unemployment aid this year. A lucky group of people have found a way to work from home doing their full-time jobs or made their side gigs into full-time work. And, unless they’re on Zoom and Uber Conference video calls all day long, sitting around in button-down shirts, blouses, suits and jeans just are not happening on a regular basis.

Apparel was already on shaky ground. Why? A sizable amount of people are too nervous to try on new clothing. There’s enough stress trying to stay 6 feet away from each other, avoid the anti-mask consumers throwing a temper tantrum, disinfecting hands nonstop and figuring out how to stretch out a paycheck long enough to check off an entire grocery list. Trying on a pair of high-priced jeans is just not top priority. In fact, apparel purchases have gone down altogether in the past few months.

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Photo credit: João Ritter/Unsplash

So what’s the biggest consumer problem with jeans these days? Are people buying them less because of comfort preferences or because they’re too worried about trying on apparel? It appears to be a mixture of both. Retailers are already dealing with the problematic response to anti-mask rebels. And so far, retailers haven’t released a consistent plan to disinfect clothing — or even make sure fitting rooms are open — as it’s tried on. Those who do just take their chances. Meanwhile the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging Americans to wash their clothing on the warmest temperature and dry it completely, which goes against quite a few laundry instructions for jeans apparel. (Jeans companies usually recommend turning jeans inside out and washing them in cold water. Air drying or gentle/low temperatures are also fairly common.)

Additionally, Wall Street Journal already reported a 14 percent drop in jeans sales for popular companies such as Wrangler and Lee jeans, owned by VF. In 2017, VF’s denim business generated $2.66 billion in sales and $422 million in profit — a 3 percent drop from the prior year. Meanwhile customers were buying comfortable-fit clothes two years prior — and that was when the unemployment rate was pretty low at 4.1 percent.

Of course this doesn’t mean the entire world has given up on being fashionable from their couch — or outside, if their employer has OK’d them going back to work. But there’s no denying that Casual Friday has become Casual Everyday for a large percentage of the U.S. population. And jeans companies are not unaware that the odds are against them. Levi’s cut 15 percent of its corporate workforce (700 jobs) this year, USA Today reports. Lucky Brand Dungarees LLC, which has approximately 200 Lucky Brand stores in North America, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on July 3.

With jeans sales already going down years prior, socially isolating consumers choosing comfort over the latest fashion trends and department stores being forced to close, it’s fairly uncertain whether jeans will ever make a comeback.

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Check out her five Medium publications: Doggone World, Homegrown, I Do See Color, Tickled and We Need to Talk. Visit to read about her.

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