There's a monumental shift in American fashion --  and it's killing denim for good

AthletaAthleisure wear is killing the US denim market.

  • US consumers are ditching denim in favour of stretchy pants.
  • According to data from the US Census Bureau, reported by Quartz, US imports of stretchy knit pants exceeded those of blue denim jeans in the US in 2017.
  • This is being driven by a trend towards wearing athleisure ware.

American consumers have had enough of constricted pants.

For the first time in history, US imports of stretchy knit pants exceeded those of blue denim jeans in the US in 2017, according to data from the US Census Bureau reported by Quartz.

Imports of blue jeans into the US hit their peak in 2010 and have been on the decline ever since. During this period, the trend towards wearing athleisure wear in everyday life has been taking off in the US.

From 2011-2016, the market for athletic clothing grew to be 30% of the total clothing and footwear industry. It grew 7% a year, compared to the sluggish 1% growth of the general apparel sector, according to a Wells Fargo note.

Ever since athletic brands Lululemon, Under Armour, and Nike initiated the trend, other stores such as Gap, J.Crew, and Forever 21 have also jumped on the bandwagon to offer this clothing in hopes of boosting sales.

Some analysts now say athleisure has hit its peak and the market is overcrowded with options. In 2017, US activewear sales totaled $US48 billion, which was a more modest 2% rise from 2016 compared to previous years, according to The NPD Group.

Despite this, demand is still high and comfortable clothing is high on consumer’s priorities.

“Categories like active apparel bottoms, undershirts, and swimwear – which indicate the consumer’s concentration on comfort, the staples, and niche products – are the few sources of consistent, long-term growth in today’s apparel market,” Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor of The NPD Group wrote in a research note in February.

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