The most popular denim trend the year you were born

Jeans have gone through a lot of changes over the years. Marco Verch/Flickr
  • Jeans have been around since the 1800s and they have undergone a lot of changes.
  • In the ’90s, big and baggy jeans were a popular trend.
  • In the 2000s, skinny jeans and colourful jeans began gaining popularity.

Fashion trends come and go, but denim jeans are one item of clothing that will always be a staple in everyone’s closet. It’s the particular style of denim that changes year after year, some decades seeing a rise in baggy jeans, others full of tight, low-rise moments. The trends are so specific that you can probably figure out what year a photo was taken just by looking at the style of jeans being worn.

Back in the 1800s, when jeans were first invented, they were mainly popular with miners and workers who needed to wear something sturdy and reliable.It wasn’t until the 1930s that jeans became more mainstream when they entered the Hollywood scene in popular Westerns. Back then, jeans were associated with cowboys and the movie stars who played them. It took about another twenty years before jeans became a casual staple worn by both men and women on a regular basis.

Below is a glimpse at what jeans looked like the year you were born. Most of these styles have come and gone throughout the years, meaning you’re sure to see a resurgence of all of these trends at some point if you haven’t already.

1950 – 1953: Jeans were Western-inspired and just getting popular.

Marlon Brando wore jeans on screen and off. Hulton Archive

In the very early 1950s, jeans were just starting to become more of a fashion trend thanks to actors like Marlon Brando and James Dean wearing them on a pretty regular basis. Still, even as they became more “cool,” they had a Western vibe to them and were primarily worn by men. It wasn’t until 1952 when Marilyn Monroe wore a pair in her film “River of No Return” that they became a staple for women as well.

1954 – 1956: Boxy jeans were in style, and they were usually cuffed.

These were all the rage. Getty/Ron Case

Throughout most of the 1950s, jeans had a boxy look to them – they weren’t fitted or particularly baggy, they just looked more stiff. They were also almost always worn rolled up.

1957 – 1959: Jeans and a white tee became a trend.

Brigitte Bardot also paired jeans with boots and sweaters. Sydney O’Meara

Today, jeans and a white tee are a classic. This started back in 1957 when Brigitte Bardot became one of the first women photographed in cropped, less boxy jeans with a white t-shirt, according to Elle.

Early 1960s: Denim became more flared, more embellished, and more fitted.

In the very early 1960s, jeans were still boxy and cuffed, but as the years went on, they became more casual, more fitted, and more hippie-inspired. They became more mainstream and less Western-inspired.

1964 – 1965: Jeans were tight at the waist and flared at the bottom.

The mid-1960s were all about flared jeans. Celebrities like Sonny and Cher, Twiggy, Mick Jagger, and Jimi Hendrix made the style even more popular.

1966-1967: Bootcut jeans took over.

In 1967, the flow of the bootcut jean was perfect for any free spirit. Getty/ed West

Flares might have been a defining denim moment in the ’60s, but they weren’t the only trend. Bootcut jeans were also very popular during this time, especially after Brigitte Bardot was photographed wearing them in 1966.

1968: Denim became lighter.

Lightwash started becoming trendier. Flickr

In 1968, Levi’s ads showed that lighter jeans were coming into style rather than just darker washes.

1969: Flared jeans came back.

Bootcut may have taken over for a few years, but by 1969, flared jeans were back in business. Jeans were also becoming a little more low-rise.

1970: Jeans were more ragged and embellished.

An article in the New York Times about denim trends in the early ’70s said that patched jeans, frayed cuffs, and lightweight jeans were becoming more and more popular.

1971: They were more fitted in the waist.

It balanced off the boxy, flare bottoms. Getty/Jack Kay

While flares and bootcuts were still on trend, jeans had become much more fitted at the waist. They weren’t quite so boxy anymore.

1972: Bell bottoms made their way into the spotlight.

Their popularity grew. Getty/Central Press

Flares seemed tame compared to the bell bottoms that became super popular in 1972. Jeans were more fitted at the waistband and got wider as they went down the leg.

1973-1974: Unfinished hems were on the most popular jeans.

An unfinished finish was in. Getty

Flared jeans and bell bottoms were still very trendy in 1973 and usually came with frayed hems that made it seem like someone had cut off a sliver of fabric.

1975 – 1976: Elephant bells became the new bell bottoms.

Even Elvis (left) rocked them. Getty/David Ashdown

Bell bottoms got even more dramatic in 1975 with the introduction of elephant bells, which were basically just extremely wide-leg jeans that got even more flared around the calves.

1977: Slim, straight leg jeans had a punk-inspired vibe to them.

Jeans become more slim. Getty/Aubrey Hart

In the late 1970s, jeans started to become more slim-fitting, with straighter legs rather than flares. The Levi’s 505 jeans were particularly popular, especially in the music scene. You can tell by getting a glimpse of the Ramone’s 1976 self-titled album, where they are all wearing 505s.

1978: Jeans became darker and tighter.

The punk-inspired look from ’77 stuck around as jeans became darker. They also became tighter. Sasson jeans, which were known for being very tight, were incredibly popular in the late ’70s.

1979: Daisy Dukes took the place of jeans.

These became totally on-trend. Gene Trindl

In 1979, Catherine Bach wore very short denim cut-offs in “The Dukes of Hazzard” TV series, and they immediately became extremely trendy.

1980: Jeans became much more baggy.

In the 1980s, the rise of hip-hop changed the way denim was worn. Jeans became very baggy and oversized.

1981: Jeans became more sexy.

It was 1981 when Calvin Klein released their ad featuring Brooke Shields that is still talked about today. The 14-year-old model infamously said, “You know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” It wasn’t the first time jeans had sex appeal, but it was definitely a big moment.

1982: Jordache jeans were the biggest trend.

Heidi Klum even launched a collection with them. Getty/Charley Galley

Jordache jeans, with their stiff looking fabric and embroidered back pockets, were one of the most popular brands at this time.

1983: Denim was high-waisted and cuffed.

The high waist is key.

In the early ’80s, jeans were high waisted, cuffed, and slightly baggy. This was when “mum jeans” really became a thing.

1984: High-waisted jeans had a slightly tapered leg.

The bottoms were only tapered slightly. Getty/Jo Hale

Baggy, cuffed mum jeans soon became cropped, slightly tapered mum jeans, a trend that stuck around for a very long time.

1985: Jeans were tighter and cropped.

Jeans got tighter. Getty

As the months went by, denim became a bit tighter instead of baggy or boxy. However, that slightly cropped ankle-length look stuck around – the better to show off your thick white socks with.

1986: Faded acid-wash jeans took over.

Acid wash was in. Getty/Ian Gavan

Acid-wash denim will always be one of the first things people think of when they think about the 1980s, and for good reason. Faded, super light acid-wash jeans were a huge trend.

1987: The acid-wash jeans got a little more destroyed.

Destroyed jeans were in. Getty/Jon Kopaloff

Eventually, faded acid-wash also became destroyed acid-wash, with light jeans full of holes and artfully arranged rips.

1988: Denim-on-denim was a big thing.

As acid-wash jeans became slightly less popular, denim-on-denim (AKA the Canadian Tuxedo) got more trendy. People were regularly photographed in slightly baggy, straight leg jeans with matching oversized jean jackets.

1989: Stonewashed jeans still held on as one of the biggest trends.

The worn-in look was trending. Getty/Ben Gabbe

Similar to acid-wash jeans, stonewashed jeans were extremely popular. The worn-in, old look of brand new jeans was something everyone was wearing.

1990: Button-fly jeans were more popular than zipper-fly jeans.

They closed with a button. Flickr/Housing Works Thrift

Button-fly jeans were first introduced in 1954, and they came back courtesy of Levi’s in 1990, when they became a trend once again.

1991: Overalls took the place of regular jeans.

Overalls were the new hit. Tumblr

It’s hard not to think of the ’90s and picture overalls. Overalls were around before the ’90s, but this decade is when they really gained steam.

1992-1993: Simple, straight leg jeans were all the rage.

Sometimes they had a cuff. Getty/Michael Buckner

The jeans of the early ’90s weren’t too crazy. The most popular style was straight leg, slightly stuff jeans in a medium wash. Denim also saw a slight decline in sales around this time.

1994: Low-rise jeans took hold.

They sat just above the butt. Getty/Evan Agostini

In 1994, low-rise jeans came back into style thanks to Alexander McQueen and then Madonna, who wore the butt-grazing jeans in a popular ad.

1995-1996: Bootcut jeans came back.

In the mid ’90s, the bootcut style came back with a vengeance. They were straight, less baggy, and worn with everything.

1997: It was all about JNCO jeans.

They were all the rage. Wikimedia Commons

And then, suddenly,JNCO jeans were everywhere. This huge, extremely baggy jeans were incredibly popular, accounting for an impressive amount of denim sales.

1998: And then it was all about Tommy Hilfiger jeans.

They were typically a darker wash. Getty/Frazer Harrison

Once JNCO jeans started to lose steam, Tommy Hilfiger stepped in. The jeans, which were usually darker and always included the American flag logo, were seen on everyone.

1999: Medium-wash, classic jeans became big.

They were even on the red carpet. Getty/Brenda Chase

In 1999, Britney Spears helped popularise simple medium-wash jeans that had a tiny bit of flair at the end of the leg.

2000: Blinged-out jeans were a trend.

Bling was a good thing. Getty/Scott Gries

The early 2000’s were a very weird time for jeans, where the trends got more and more intense with each passing year. It started with embellished jeans, with included lots of bling.

2001: Lace-up jeans were the new thing.

It often was down the sides of the legs. Getty/George De Sota

Blinged out embellishments changed to lace-up embellishments as the months went on. One brand in particular, Mudd, made some popular options: jeans that laced up at the fly, down the sides of the legs, or even up the front.

2002: The belt loops got very large.

Belts were meant to be seen. Getty/George De Sota

The early 2000s is known for one strange accessory: extremely wide belts. As a result, jeans had very large belt loops to accommodate the trend.

2003: Super low-rise flares came back in style.

Sometimes they had a bit of bling. Getty/Chris Weeks

The early 2000s were somewhat reminiscent of the ’70s thanks to the low-rise flared jeans that made a comeback. They were almost bell bottoms, but not quite.

2004: Back pockets disappeared.

They briefly vanished. Getty/Chris Weeks

For a brief period of time in the early ’00s, jeans lost their back pockets. In their place was a semi-circle that called more attention to your butt.

2005: Capri pants made a comeback.

The cut was popular. Getty/Sean Gallup

Back in the ’60s, cropped pants known as capris were in style. In the early 2000s, they came back in denim form, in all different kinds of washes.

2006: Ombré jeans became popular.

One popular look was for jeans to have a lighter wash in the middle of the leg, then darker at the bottom, supposedly to make your legs look longer. It gave almost an ombré effect.

2007: Jeans were low enough to allow your thong to peek out.

Sometimes it peeked through the front, too. Getty

By this point in the early 2000s, low-rise jeans were so popular that many forgot what high-waisted even meant.

2008: Denim was anything but blue.

Colours and patterns were on trend. Getty/Brendon Thorne

Instead of your typical medium-wash (or even light or dark), denim became coloured. From grey to snake-skin to random patterns, jeans were anything but boring.

2009: Jeggings took over.

These stretchy jeans were all the rage. Getty/D Dipasupil

It was only a matter of time before jeans decreased in popularity after having an epic few years, and around 2009, jeggings took their place. They were still technically jeans, but they were so stretchy that they could almost feel like leggings.

2010: Boyfriend jeans made their move.

They have a looser, distressed vibe. Asos

Remember the boxy jeans from the ’60s that were once in style? They sort of came back in the form of boyfriend jeans, which were loose-fitting, cuffed, and usually destroyed in some way.

2011: Dark wash skinny jeans became the norm.

It was all about dark wash. Warp + Weft

It was either loose boyfriend jeans or tight skinny jeans, preferably in a dark wash. This was especially true after Kate Middleton was spotted in a pair.

2012: Jeans became bright and colourful.

Colourful skinny jeans were so trendy. Getty/Evan Agostini

It wasn’t trendy enough to just wear skinny jeans – you had to wear colourful skinny jeans. This year, almost any shade was good to go.

2013: Patchwork denim was popular.

Patches were trendy. Flickr/Heather

In 2013, jeans got a little bit more creative. Cut-and-wash combos were popular, as were patchwork and embellishments.

2014: Overalls made a comeback.

Some even had patterns. Getty/Carlos Alvarez /

For a short period of time, overalls became trendy yet again. Unlike the ’90s, they were a little bit more fitted and cropped.

2015: Jeans were still skinny, but also high-waisted.

The waistline moved up. Getty/Theo Wargo

As we moved further away from the low-rise jeans of the early 2000s, high-waisted jeans started to become more popular. In 2015, high-waisted skinny jeans became very popular.

2016: Denim was cropped and flared.

They combined two previous trends. Getty/Emma McIntyre

The style from the ’70s was making a comeback, which was obvious in a big denim trend: jeans that were both cropped and flared out.

2017: Frayed hems were everywhere.

It’s back in style.

In 2017, the frayed hems trend that was popular in the 1970s came back into style. Jeans were more undone than usual.

2018: It was all about exciting new ideas and going viral.

These layered jeans were designed by Rihanna. Stuart C. Wilson/Stringer/Getty Images

2018 was the year of viral jean trends. From 9-foot-long jeans to expensive layered jeans, the trend was all about taking risks and trying something new.


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