Is denim’s popularity on the decline among consumers? Recent reports suggest that demand for denim is being replaced by growing demand for jeans alternatives, particularly chinos and cargo pants.

New CivicScience polling data finds that jeans are still a staple for more than half of U.S. adults, as 57% report wearing jeans regularly – 26% say they wear them a few times per week and 31% wear them every day. That hasn’t changed much since June of last year, when a total of 55% reported at least weekly wear of jeans.

When it comes to which style of pants U.S. adults plan to purchase next, jeans are still the single-most popular category at 42%. While there isn’t a sole contender to denim, over half (58%) are more likely to purchase other kinds of pants (n=2,379). Khakis and chinos, cargo pants, leggings, and loungewear/sweats are all nearly equally appealing alternatives to jeans for shoppers on their next shopping trip.

However, purchasing plans vary widely by consumer demographics, especially age, gender, and work situation.

Adults under age 35 are the least interested in buying jeans. Less than a third are likely to purchase jeans as their next pants purchase, with Gen Z adults being the least likely (28%). Cargo pants, leggings, and khakis or chinos are all viable options for under-35 shoppers, but much less so for older shoppers – nearly 1-in-2 are likely to purchase jeans.

Women are less likely to purchase denim than men, and nearly one-third are most likely to purchase leggings or other loungewear. Men, on the other hand, are much more likely to shop for khakis or chinos and cargo pants for their next purchase.

Jeans are the least popular among remote workers. A little over 20% of fully remote or hybrid workers say they’re likely to buy jeans next, compared to nearly half of in-person workers. While this gap is in part an age proxy (remote workers skew younger), it’s likely that work-from-home life is contributing to the slowing of the denim market as remote workers opt for more relaxed or comfortable alternatives, like khakis, cargoes, and loungewear.

Purchasing plans also differ by retailer. From Urban Outfitters to Nordstrom to Walmart, data show respondents favorable to shopping at a few of the nation’s largest clothing retailers are looking for a wide variety of different pant types, some more than others. Urban Outfitters favorables are the least likely to buy denim next, while Walmart favorables are the most likely.

Consumers who enjoy shopping at GAP and American Eagle Outfitters – both known for their denim – are among the least interested in purchasing jeans. Khakis/chinos and cargo pants have an edge over denim among these crowds. That category is also distinctly more appealing than jeans for Urban Outfitters and Neiman Marcus favorables, but not so much for Macy’s and Walmart favorables.

Additional insights from the data:

  • Higher earners ($150K per year) are the most likely to purchase jeans next (48%), whereas lower earners ($50K and under per year) are the least likely (40%). However, top earners are also the most likely to buy khakis/chinos, and lower earners are most likely to buy leggings and cargo pants.
  • The majority of jeans buyers (61%) typically spend $50 or less on a new pair. Nearly a quarter say they are more likely to purchase secondhand jeans than buy new.
  • Online jeans-buying (versus in-store buying) saw a bump from January 2020 to today, growing from 21% to 27%.
  • People who watch ad-free streaming video services are less likely to buy jeans on their next shopping trip compared to those who watch ad-supported services.
  • Levi’s or Wrangler? While “Yellowstone” helped the Wrangler brand, Levi’s jeans lead in favorability over Wrangler jeans among U.S. adults, 54% to 42%.

The data suggest the cost of jeans could also play a role in any slowdown currently happening in the denim market, but brands may want to focus more on age and work status. It’s clear that young adults are looking for greater variety in their wardrobes. It’s also clear that jeans are decidedly unpopular options for remote workers, and given that remote work is the new normal, a decreased interest in buying denim may be as well.

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