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While fashion trends come and go, jeans has been one of the closet staple that has survived innumerable fashion trends. Although jeans in itself has undergone transformation over the years with different styles, cuts, colors and designs, it remains a popular clothing item irrespective of age, gender and economic status. But now, it finds itself fighting another battle against the growing trend of “athleisure”. The COVID-19 pandemic put a major dent in denim sales given the preference for comfortable wear as employees continue to work from home amidst global lockdowns. Analysts state that the recent bankruptcy filings by companies such as True Religion, G-Star RAW, Brooks Brothers and Ann Taylor are as a result of people’s preference for less structured clothing for both work and relaxation. The pandemic ushered in an era of comfort and denim sales have fallen sharply amid the coronavirus crisis. “Casual is really what’s winning right now,” says an analyst for NPD Group, a market research firm. “Activewear is becoming more acceptable and if customers are looking to extend their wardrobe, they’re more likely to buy something with multiple uses, that they can wear for work, leisure and working out”, according to the Washington Post. Levi Strauss & Co., an American clothing company known worldwide for its Levi’s brand of denims also experienced a 62 percent drop in revenue for the second quarter of 2020 and has announced plans to cut 700, or 15 percent, of its corporate workforce. Jeans sales had been slow moving for a few years now amidst the growing athleisure trend, but the pandemic has rung the death knell for many denim companies. The concept of athleisure has revolutionized casual clothing, as stretchy suits, smart sneakers and high-tech fabrics are being highly preferred by customers.
Before Covid-19 struck worldwide, jeans sales in the US were slowing picking up after years of facing tough competition from activewear companies who were stealing away their sales. But the pandemic put a halt to the rebound of denim sales. As governments worldwide continued to impose multiple lockdowns to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, much of the global workforce needed to work from home. And nobody wants to wear jeans when they’re working from home. White-collar workers who are logging in from home say they’re increasingly reaching for comfortable, loose and airy shorts and pants to pair with formal shirts or tops for video calls. And jeans, despite being considered a casual clothing staple aren’t know exactly to be comfortable to sit in for long periods. In the early days of March when the entire world came to a standstill due to Covid-29, it took just a few days for everyday office attire to change from traditional work-wear to activewear. Athleisure quickly became a preferred choice of work from home get-up that provided the ultimate comfort for the whole day. Great for daytime Zoom meetings as well as evening Netflix binges. Shoppers have chosen comfortable, stretchy products over formal clothes, such as suits, trousers or skirts.
According to the 2020 Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor Survey, nearly half of all consumers say that athleisure bottoms have replaced some of the denim jeans in their wardrobe. Teens are now buying more gear from Nike and Lululemon over denim classics from brands like Abercrombie, according to a recent Piper Jaffray survey on teen spending. Cashing on this trend, athleisure companies have recorded a staggering growth, with many established brands launching their own line of activewear. American Eagle recently launched its own brands of athleisure named Offline by Aerie, which is supposed to be “built for real movement and real comfort”. The collection includes leggings, hoodies, tops, and bottoms. Also, Guess has launched a full athleisure collection that includes cotton and cotton blend hoodies, joggers, tees, and tank tops. These newcomers join established players such as Lululemon Athletica, the athleisure powerhouse that saw its share value leap almost 40 percent during the pandemic. Athleta, the athleisure brand of Gap reported an upward sales of joggers, leggings and men’s sweatpants. Owing to this growing trend, consumers now have a wide variety of options as more fashionable athleisure garments have entered the market that are breathable, temperature-regulating, sweat-wicking, are easy maintenance and remain wrinkle free. According to Allied Market Research the U.S. athleisure market valued at $155.2 billion in 2018, is expected to reach $257.1 billion by 2026.
Turns out that staying at home means turning to comfort. Once the ultimate in comfort and casual wear, jeans have been usurped by the athleisure trend. Is it time to say Goodbye, Jeans?