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Jeans feeling the blues as consumers turn to yoga pants

Americans’ obsession with jeans is beginning to wear thin.

Jeans long have been a go-to staple in closets across the country. After all, not many pieces of clothing are so comfortable they can be worn daily, yet versatile enough to be dressed up or down.

But sales of the iconic blues fell 6 percent during the past year after decades of almost steady growth. Why? People more often are sporting yoga pants and leggings instead of traditional denim.

The shift is partly due to a lack of new designs since brightly colored skinny jeans were a hit a couple years back. It’s also a reflection of changing views about what’s appropriate attire for work, school and other places that used to call for more formal attire.

“Yoga pants have replaced jeans in my wardrobe,” said Anita Ramaswamy, a Scottsdale, Arizona high-school senior who is buying more leggings and yoga pants than jeans. “You can make it as sexy as skinny jeans, and it’s more comfortable.”

To be sure, the jeans business isn’t dead: Customer Growth Partners, a retail consultancy, estimates denim accounts for 20 percent of annual sales at the nation’s department stores.

But sales of jeans in the U.S. fell 6 percent to $16 billion during the year that ended in June, according to market research firm NPD Group, while sales of yoga pants and other “active wear” climbed 7 percent to $33.6 billion.

And Levi Strauss, which invented the first pair of blue jeans 141 years ago, is among jean makers that acknowledge their business has been hurt by what the fashion industry dubs the “athleisure” trend. That’s led them to create new versions of classic denim that are more “stretchy” and mimic the comfort of sweatpants.


It’s one of the few times jeans haven’t been at the forefront of what’s “trending.” Businessman Levi Strauss and tailor Jacob Davis invented jeans in 1873 after getting a patent to create cotton denim workpants with copper rivets in certain areas like the pocket corner to make them stronger. By the 1920s, Levi’s original 501 jeans had become top-selling men’s workpants, according to Levi’s corporate website.

Over the next couple of decades, the pants went mainstream. In 1934, Levi’s took advantage of the rise in Western movies and launched its first jeans aimed at affluent women who wanted to wear them on dude ranches. Then teens boosted popularity of the pants, first among the greasy-hair-and-leather-jacket set in the 1950s and then, the hippies in the 1960s.

But teens’ biggest contribution to jeans’ rise was the name itself: Until the 1950s, the pants were called overalls or waist overalls, but in the following decade, teens started referring to them as jeans. During that time, jeans took on a bad-boy image — popularized by actors like James Dean and Marlon Brando in such roles — which led many schools to ban kids from wearing them to class.

In 1960, Levi’s began using the ‘jeans’ name in ads and packaging. And over the next few decades, jeans became even more of a way for people to express themselves. In the 1960s to early 1970s, hip-huggers and bell bottoms became an anti-establishment statement. Then in the 1970s and early 1980s, jeans became a status symbol when designer brands like Jordache rolled out more chic versions. More recently, names like 7 For All Mankind made $200 jeans, helping to push sales up by 10 percent to $10 billion in 2000, NPD said.


Jeans have faced other rough patches. One came in the mid-1970s, when denim sales fell 3 to 4 percent, while corduroy pants surged in popularity, with sales rising 10 to 12 percent, according to NPD estimates.

NPD declined to offer more historical sales data because of changes it made in its methodology recently, but the group’s chief industry analyst Marshal Cohen says jean sales fell about 3 percent again with the resurgence of khakis 12 years ago. That was the last decline until now.

Fashion watchers say the latest decline could be the longest. The “athleisure” trend is the biggest threat jeans have faced because it reflects a fundamental lifestyle change, said Amanda Hallay, assistant clinical professor of fashion merchandising at LIM College in Manhattan. “Everyone wants to look like they’re running to the gym, even if they’re not,” she said.

As a result of jeans’ waning popularity, retailers and designers are focusing more on activewear and less on denim. For instance, J.C. Penney recently has doubled its selections in casual athletic styles for the back-to-school season and scaled back growth of its denim business.

And designers are pushing new versions of jeans. Both Levi’s and VF Corp., the maker of Wrangler and Lee jeans, are rolling out jeans that they say are stretchier. And many brands are making so-called jogger pants, a loose-fitting sweatpant style that has elastic cuffs at the bottom of the leg.

“If casualization is what everyone is looking for, we can push the innovation,” said James Curleigh, president of the Levi’s brand.

It’s too early to tell whether the new styles will help jeans regain popularity. Jennifer Romanello, for one, said she’s not interested in them.

“If I want yoga pants, I will buy yoga pants,” said the publishing executive from Rockville Centre, New York. “I just don’t see jeans crossing the line to be yoga pants.”

Disgraced craigslist congressman asked to pose for Playgirl

Christopher Lee, the disgraced former anti-gay congressman who was caught sending shirtless pictures of himself to women on Craigslist and trolling the site forchristopher_lee transgender women and cross-dressers, might have a new career.

Playgirl’s Daniel Nardicio wants Lee, from upstate New York, to be the centerfold for a shoot of “hot daddies” the magazine is producing.

“I think Chris would make a great centerfold for that issue,” Nardicio told the Village Voice’s Michael Musto. “He’s hot and hunky, and the fact that he likes trannies gives me a great idea for a shoot with Terry Richardson, whom I met last week backstage at Lady Gaga and was into the idea – in fact, Terry’s mother used to work at Playgirl.”

Nardicio said she’s thinking of call the issue “DILFS” or “Silver Foxes.”

“I think it’d be a great choice for Chris – a dismal political career could be topped off with a flamboyant finish,” Nardicio said. “Plus I feel Chris’ penchant for chicks with dicks makes him a shoo-in for porn, no?”

Lee resigned his office three hours after Gawker.com reported being contacted by a woman who said Lee had responded to a “women for men” ad that she’d placed on Craigslist. She provided flirtatious messages that Lee had sent her as well as a bare-chested shot he’d sent her of himself flexing in front of a mirror.

Lee described himself as 39, divorced, a lobbyist and a “fit, fun classy guy.” His real age is 46, and he and his wife have a young son.

Subsequent to Lee’s resignation, Gawker was contacted by two transgender women who also said they’d also encountered Lee on the site. Identified as Fiona and Holly, they said they’d come across posts from Lee in January looking for “a sexy ts/cd that i can spoil. I promise not to disappoint.”

Lee wrote to Fiona that he dated a transgender woman while at business school at Chapman University, Gawker reported. She told Lee on Jan. 21 that she figured out who he was by looking up his e-mail address on Facebook, and he did not answer back.

That’s around the time he reportedly told his congressional staff that his e-mail account had been hacked.


Lee, who positioned himself as a “family values” politician, opposed overturning the military’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and voted consistently anti-choice.



Right-wing congressman resigns after craigslist flap

U.S. Rep. Christopher Lee, R-N.Y., has resigned after Gawker.com reported that the conservative, married congressman had been trolling craigslist picking up women.

Lee, who opposed overturning the military’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and votes anti-choice, answered a “women for men” ad last month, sending the poster a bare-chested shot of himself flexing in front of a mirror. He also sent the poster flirtatious messages.

When the poster realized who he was, she contacted the media.

In his e-mail correspondence, Lee described himself as 39, divorced, a lobbyist and a “fit, fun classy guy.” His real age is 46, and he and his wife have a young son.

A Lee spokesman initially told Gawker that Lee believed his e-mail account had been hacked around Jan. 21. But the e-mail containing the topless Blackberry portrait was dated Jan. 14.

Within hours of the story breaking under the headline “Married GOP Congressman Sent Sexy Pictures to Craigslist Babe,” Lee resigned.

“I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents,” he said in a statement. “I deeply and sincerely apologize to them all. I have made profound mistakes and I promise to work as hard as I can to seek their forgiveness. The challenges we face in Western New York and across the country are too serious for me to allow this distraction to continue, and so I am announcing that I have resigned my seat in Congress effective immediately.”

Lee declined to discuss the incident with reporters, saying “I have to work this out with my wife.”