We saw it coming. The headlines predicted it; the tiktok fashionistas promoted it. It was inevitable. Low-rise jeans are in again. Every fast fashion store and social media feed is filled to the brim with trousers that do little to cover up the belly button. Personally, I am horrified.
First, a word on trend cycles. It has long been proposed that fashion is cyclical, with trends — cuts, fabrics, and prints — coming in and out of style every 20 years. This makes sense: the 2010s saw a boom in ripped denim, plaid shirts, and now, we’re seeing the returns of early 2000s Y2K fashion.
However, something that has shifted in recent times is the speed at which these changes happen. It’s a loop: social media popularizes niche items or aesthetics at lightning speed, and fast fashion companies like Shein, Zara, and H&M ramp up manufacturing using cheap labour to meet consumer demand. Then, a new trend pops up — often just weeks or months later — and the cycle repeats itself. We have seen this happen with the “coconut girl” aesthetic, the House of Sunny green dress, and Jean-Paul Gautier-style mesh long sleeve tops.
These “microtrends”, as people have taken to calling them, are being widely criticized for a number of flaws. Firstly, the speed of manufacturing means that each new release is extremely detrimental to the environment and to workers in developing countries. For example, according to Vox.com, Zara alone produces around 840 million pieces a year, often made of fabrics that contain microplastics, which can contaminate the soil and water — and then, our bodies. (Microplastics were recently found in the placenta of a fetus.) The fashion industry is estimated to account for around 10% of global CO2 emissions.
This, along with what we know about the horrible working conditions people in factories experience (think low pay, long hours, unsafe facilities), means that more trends and more clothing production is not what the world needs right now.
So, maybe my distaste for low-rise jeans is justified. After all, this might just be another fad, and producing millions of pairs of itty bitty denim, just for it to end up in the landfill in a couple months, seems wasteful.
But, to be frank, I’m simply frustrated. As someone who has spent a good decade of their life being hyper-conscious of what their body looks like, the idea of having my entire stomach and lower back exposed is sickening. Look, I’m just not built like Bella Hadid — and I refuse to take extreme measures to change that.
When low rise jeans were first booming in the early 00s, much of fashion content and discourse revolved around the idealized body type. This was, after all, the aftermath of “heroin chic”- a crazed obsession with looking like a malnourished, sleep deprived, and incredibly skinny rock-n-roll seductress. What does this mean? Headlines hounding celebrities for gaining weight; guides on how to lose 5 kilos in 5 days; body dysmorphia, the normalization of eating disorders, and misery for young women everywhere. No wonder it terrifies me that this era threatens to make a comeback.
Lastly, I have a controversial statement: even if you don’t care about threats of climate catastrophe and skyrocketing anorexia rates, low-rise jeans are just… a little ugly. There, I said it. They distort your body proportions and expose your butt every time you squat a little too deep. Is there really no better style of pants?
I’ll stick with my high-waisted jeans for now. Or until the trend cycle swallows me whole and throws me back up — this time with my pants on my hips.