Trend Report: Jeans Through the Decades

Melissa Badamo Jun 25, 2024

From the bell bottoms of the ‘70s to the high-waisted style of the ‘90s and today, denim jeans have been at the forefront of fashion trends for decades. Whether you modeled yourself after Avril Lavigne’s wide-leg look growing up, or favored a low-rise like Britney Spears, you likely had a denim phase of your very own—and probably still do. 

But which ones win out as the design to be reckoned with, and which are a little more… meh? 

I decided to rank jeans trends through the decades, from worst to best (warning: hot takes ahead). Let’s get into it.


#5 Low-Rise Jeans

Remember when jeans were embroidered with patterns, bedazzled with sequins and stopped way below the belly button? That was certainly a… moment in time.

Don’t get me wrong—low-rise jeans were iconic in the 90s and throughout the early 2000s. They truly slapped in the era of flip phones, MySpace, and denim galore. Y2K queens like the aforementioned Britney, Beyoncé and Lindsay Lohan even dared rock a pair on the red carpet, coupled with studded belts and crop tops or layered camisoles. Bonus points if they wore a skirt over their jeans (I’m looking at you, Ashley Tisdale).

While low-rise jeans were peak fashion for the time, I’m really glad we left them in the ‘00s. They’re simply too awkward and difficult to style, in my opinion. This decade had the best music, TV dramas, and rom coms, but maybe we should just pretend noughties fashion never existed. Deal? Deal.


#4 Boyfriend Jeans

Popular in the ‘60s, ‘90s, and ‘00s, it’s clear boyfriend jeans aren’t going anywhere any time soon. The relaxed, comfy fit makes them super versatile, ideal for casual activities like hanging with friends or grabbing a bite to eat, or for day-to-day chores like grocery shopping or a trip to the laundromat.

To me, boyfriend jeans look best in light to medium shades of denim. If you’re looking to go all-out blue, the Right Pack Expressions backpack in Embossed Hearts Blue perfectly captures that classic blue jeans look and will make the perfect companion.

Although boyfriend jeans are the best style to cuff, they tend to fall a little more low-waisted and baggy than I personally like, so they naturally land at the number four spot on my list.


#3 Bell Bottoms

This beloved ‘70s favorite has made a stealthy comeback in the 2020s—and it’s clear why: they’re snug at the waist yet flared at the ankles, creating the perfect contrast and silhouette many are searching for.

Paired with a geisha top, brown leather belt and a Power to the Flower Half Pint Mini Backpack, these groovy jeans are perfect for a night dancing to ‘70s hits like “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees and “Dancing Queen” by Abba.

Despite the vintage charm, bell bottoms aren’t my go-to jeans for everyday wear, therefore coming in at #3 as we take in jeans through the decades. 


#2 High-Waisted Mom Jeans

Mom jeans were the bomb in the ‘80s and ‘90s, making a huge comeback in the 2020s—and it’s well-deserved. High-waisted denim is adored for its versatility, fitting many different personal styles and body types. Throw a little cuff at the bottom, tuck in your shirt or sweater, add a Fifth Avenue Fanny Pack, and you’re all set for a retro look.

Because I take most of my outfit inspo from Monica Geller from Friends, mom jeans take that runner-up spot in this rundown.


#1 Skinny Jeans

I told you there’d be some hot takes on this list! Skinny jeans have all but been shunned in today’s society, but there was a time when a skin-tight pant had every Millennial in a chokehold. If you wore a pair complete with a beanie and Vans, you were considered the coolest on the block in the 2010s. End of story. 

Also a grunge fashion staple, there’s something undeniably edgy about skinny jeans—especially if they’re ripped at the knees. Pair them with a band T-shirt, a comfy flannel, and a Right Pack Mini, and that is the perfect outfit. Plus, skinny jeans are super versatile and can be dressed up with a fancy sweater or blazer.

In conclusion, I will not tolerate any skinny jeans slander. This #MillennialCore benchmark is simply the best, and I will die on that hill.


Final Thoughts

While the best jeans ultimately come down to personal preferences and body types, jeans trends through the decades have a huge influence on what we wear. From stylish bell bottoms to classic mom jeans, it’s exciting to see where the evolution of denim will go next. I’m keeping my eye on the return of skinny jeans—I feel it coming! Fashion is cyclical, after all…