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Low Rise Jeans: A Conversation

Low rise jeans. Even typing these words makes me cringe. When I saw in the news that low-rise jeans were making a comeback, I was horrified, to put it mildly. Having been born in 1999, I only have a distant memory of these jeans gracing red carpets and MTV on famous actresses and celebrities like, Paris Hilton, Destiny’s Child, Christina Ageuileria, and Keira Knightlely. According to Flare.com, these jeans came into popularity in 2001 after designer Alexander McQueen debuted them on his runway shows in the 1990s. They often were paired with crop tops, skinny belts, and with extra cutouts on the waist, were designed to show off as much skin as possible (even thongs, à la Manny from Degrassi: The Next Generation). I, on the other hand, grew up comfortably in the 2010s with skinny jeans that covered my hips, and now as an adult, I only have eyes for jeans that cover my belly button. 

However, what comes up must come down, as is the pendulum of life, politics, and yes, the fit of our jeans. With designers and fashion empires such as Donna Ida Thornton, Tom Ford, and Versace debuting their version of low rise jeans for the 2020s woman, and celebrities like Victoria Beckham, Bella Hadid, and Jennifer Aniston being seen rocking these beloved 2000s fashion staple, it is only a matter of time before we see this style everywhere again. Low rise jeans will not truly be back, however, until they’re seen gracing the For You page on TikTok (I’ve got my eyes on you Gen Z). In fact, Sam Trotman, a denim trend forecaster, in an interview with TheCut.com, stated that Gen Z’s love of ironic fashion and fashion comebacks may actually drive this change, as they “capture the trashy Y2K mood.”

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Of course, 2020 is very obviously not 2000. Skinny jeans are far from the only style of jeans, with mom jeans and boyfriend jeans all strong contenders. There’s also a focus on more independent style; thrift store shopping is encouraged and more unique ways of dressing are embraced. Similarly, there is a massive body positivity movement that has encouraged people to celebrate their individuality and demonstrated that every body is beautiful and worthy of respect (and clothes!). With models like Tess Holliday and Iskra Lawrence on the runway, big corporations such as Aerie having plus-sized models and disabled models in their ads, Sports Illustrated having older women on the cover, and social media allowing anyone to create their own modelling and influencing career, there is decreased pressure for the very thin physique that low-rise jeans frequently showed off. This is not to say we live in a body-positive utopia; there is still a pressure for women to be wrinkle-free, with large breasts, big butts, thin waists, long legs, flat and toned stomachs, to have Eurocentric features, and full lips, to name a few. Needless to say, very few women actually exist with all of these desired traits naturally, outside of Photoshop or a doctor’s office. 

As someone who uses high waisted jeans to give the impression of long legs and a flat stomach and wears mom jeans with a nice elastic waistband when I don’t care, my concern with a return to low-rise jeans is a return to a push for all women to have the very flat stomachs and prominent hip bones seen in celebrities like Britney Spears and Rihanna in the early 2000s. My worries may be for naught, however. In Vogue’s interview with Thornton, she stated that she began designing low rise jeans because of the “cultural change in that we are more focused on our health and wellbeing than ever before” and women want to show their strong and healthy bodies. In fact, Abby Hepworth for Purewow.com announced that she was excited for the return of low rise jeans because it is a more flattering fit for her short torso, they hide stomach bloat when paired with a non-cropped top unlike high waisted jeans, and when paired with a belts, give her more of an hourglass shape. 

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To be clear, everyone should be free to wear whatever clothing they feel best in and show as much or as little skin as they prefer. But, it is also apparent that different styles of jeans are more flattering for society’s expectations of certain body types, as we all chase an ideal image. I am most comfortable with a thick layer of jeans covering my midsection to give the illusion that it is flat when it most certainly is not because I drink water and don’t always go to the gym or eat the healthiest and get bloated and own a uterus. Perhaps, with the return of low rise jeans the expectation of having a completely flat stomach will also dissipate when we see how impossible it is. Or we’ll just wear long shirts to cover our midriff and declare ourselves free from the oppression of high waisted jeans. The recent cycling through various fashion staples of the past fifty years has seen me wearing things I never thought I would wear before like scrunchies, mom jeans, and chunky sneakers. So, there's a chance that I’ll be caught in a pair of low-rise jeans soon enough. However, I absolutely put my foot down on shirts with Abercrombie and Hollister embroidered on the front, and I think that is something we can all agree on. 


Emily Janikowski, otherwise known as Em, can be found usually lurking in the depths of the Polsky building as a writing tutor, and when she isn't there, she is curled up in bed binge watching Law & Order SVU. Her passion lies in changing the world, and she hopes to accomplish this through majoring in social work.
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