Skinny leggings vs baggy jeans. Which Gen Z Will Throw First?


By Parija Kavilanz, CNN Business

When Gen Z + TikTok declare a fashion trend like “owl,”That means it’s over. The rest of us are expected to move on.

But what happens when Gen Z is caught between two diametrically opposed trends, one threatening to undo the other, and both popular with teen shoppers?

What we’re talking about here is the struggle between fitted leggings and baggy jeans.

Before they said something “skinny” had come out, the Gen Zers were passionate about skinny leggings, a long-standing staple in their closets. This is why the athleisure brand Lululemon and its pricey $ 100 to $ 130 leggings have always ranked as a coveted brand among this demographic, whose members are those born after 1997.

In Piper Sandler’s recent 42nd biannual “Taking Stock With Teens” survey of 10,000 Gen Z consumers, Lululemon again emerged as the favorite brand of young consumers this year, ranking as their fifth favorite clothing brand after Nike, American Eagle Outfitters, Pacsun and Adidas.

Millennials, for their part, are grateful for the penchant of their successive generations for leggings as they too obsessively wear them for a cup of coffee, on school trips, and even for work. And all the Power of Teenage Consumers still loves is what retailers keep in stock.

But now Generation Z is showing that even in leggings, “skinny” is almost over. On TikTok, they’ve been swooning for months over “flared” leggings, also known as yoga pants.

This is yet another example of Gen Z’s penchant for resurrecting popular style trends from the past (baggy jeans, scrunchies, tracksuits, big plastic jewelry.)

Popular influencer Emma Chamberlain, with her nearly 15 million followers on Instagram and nearly 11 million on TikTok, has championed flared leggings on social media since last fall. Zoom in to 2021 and flare leggings have appeared in many teen-friendly chains including Pacsun, Lululemon, Gap and Athleta.

“From a teen perspective, Lululemon is still a # 1 brand with high school kids, but there is a nod to baggy pants, slacks and leggings now in their wardrobes,” said Erinn Murphy, principal. General and Senior Research Analyst at Piper Sander.

And for teens who still wear skinny leggings, they design the look as a “triangle” or “inverted triangle,” she said. “So it’s a loose t-shirt with skinny leggings or a shorter top with looser pants,” Murphy said.

Pacsun President Brieane Olson said the push for ’70s flares and loose’ 80s styles in pants and leggings is dominating Gen Z, and the styles are appearing heavily on the TikTok and Instagram reels.

Therefore, she said, “At Pacsun, we are seeing a significant shift towards fuller silhouettes in the socks among our male and female consumers. Wide legs, loose or loose fit, flared and super flared and boot cut are the denim trends with our consumer Pacsun.

Olson went so far as to say that skinny pants have started to lose money with Gen Z over the past few years, and “going into 2022 will be almost obsolete for our consumer.

Market research firm NPD Group noted in a recent report that consumers on the whole have adopted more casual and comfortable “head-to-toe” styles of fashion.

In categories of women’s jeans and active bottoms, such as leggings, looser styles are gaining ground, said Maria Rugolo, fashion apparel analyst at NPD Group.

“We’re also starting to see looser fit in sportswear,” she said. “Flare is the style right now and TikTok is having fun with it.”

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