A brief history of low-rise jeans

A brief history of low-rise jeans

The Noughties were over a decade ago, but many of the fashion crimes committed are still fresh in our minds.

One of the worst trends to come out of the era were low-rise jeans – trousers slung so low around your waist you were in danger of showing off a bit too much… Despite its perils, we were all wearing them. Since then, they’ve fallen out of fashion, with denim styles now erring towards extremely high waists.

However, in recent months, models like Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski have quietly been wearing low-risers, and now Gucci has sent low-slung denim down the catwalk.

As bum-skimming jeans threaten to make a fashion comeback, let’s take a look at how they first became popular…

The Nineties

A pair of Alexander McQueen’s bumster trousers (Neil Munns/PA)
A pair of Alexander McQueen’s bumster trousers (Neil Munns/PA)

In the early Nineties, Alexander McQueen – the enfant terrible of the fashion world – shocked everyone with a new style of trouser. Called ‘bumsters’, the aggressively low-rise trousers were designed to show off the top of the wearer’s bum.

They sparked a new denim trend. Although few styles got so low, or showed quite as much, waistlines slowly began creeping down. It was a look very much in line with the problematic ‘heroin chic’ style of the decade, as it saw models showing off their protruding hip bones.

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Kate Moss practically championed low-risers, wearing a pair for her 1993 cover of The Face, and modelling them in Calvin Klein commercials with Mark Wahlberg. For men, it was less about low-rise jeans and more about trousers they pulled down below the top of their boxers.

The Noughties

Britney Spears overlays her low-risers with some sparkly material in 2002 (Yui Mok/PA)
Britney Spears overlays her low-risers with some sparkly material in 2002 (Yui Mok/PA)

In the Noughties, low-rise jeans were everywhere. No longer were they just for waifish models – it was basically the only type of denim you could buy.

The style tended towards low-slung waists, and flared or bootcut legs, plus a bit of extra detailing or bejewelling if you were feeling particularly sassy.

Destiny’s Child show off all the belts you could wear with your jeans in 2001 (PA)
Destiny’s Child show off all the belts you could wear with your jeans in 2001 (PA)

We have stars like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Paris Hilton and Keira Knightley to thank for taking the trend mainstream.

Without low-rise jeans, how else would you show off your belly button piercing and hip tattoo? (Danny Lawson/PA)
Without low-rise jeans, how else would you show off your belly button piercing and hip tattoo? (Danny Lawson/PA)

To make your denim extra Noughties, you likely would’ve worn a scarf or something sparkly and dangly as a belt, and no look was complete without your belly button piercing on show.

Now

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