The Good, The Bad & The Cringe: 4 R29 Editors Revisit The Denim Trends Of Their Youth

·6 min read

It’s been said that the life cycle of a fashion trend lasts about 20 years, beginning with its introduction, a rise to its peak, and then an eventual decline into obsolescence until it, one day, makes its way back into the spotlight. So, it should come as no surprise that a number of Y2K-era fashion trends have had a renaissance in recent years, with plenty of nostalgic (and sometimes polarizing) denim cuts and silhouettes. From the baggy jeans of the late ’90s to the low-slung, skin-tight denim of the early aughts, it’s nearly impossible to scroll through our social feeds or walk down the street without spotting these trends everywhere.

Considering that many of us were coming of age during this era, the influence these trends have had on our personal style is undeniable — regardless of whether we loved them or hated them at the time. In partnership with H&M, we’ve asked four Refinery29 editors to revisit the most notable denim trends of their youth that they’re particularly excited to see make a comeback. Ahead, they reminisce about the good, the bad, and the cringe, and share why they’re so quick to embrace their 2022 revival.

Baggy Low-Rise Jeans

“From the ages of 12 to 18, in peak early 2000s, I was rarely allowed to wear jeans. Going to a private, all-girls Catholic school meant there were quite a few stipulations on what you could and could not do, and wearing jeans was a “could not” unless it was a Friday (and you paid $4 to “charity”), a community service day, or, most importantly, an off-campus mixer with boys. In true pubescent, trying-to-fit-in fashion, I begged my mom for as many tight, low-rise jeans — the trending denim silhouette at the time — as I could fit in my dresser. But at the same time, if I wasn’t in school or wearing the tightest hip-hugging, butt-plumping denim I could get my hands on, I was a comfort queen who lived in my baggy sweatpants — something that would greatly influence my personal style later in life.”

“Fast forward 20 years, now a mom to a two-year-old, you couldn’t pay me to walk around in tight, thigh-hugging jeans, but my old affinity for sweatpants has carried over into how I wear my jeans today. I’m embracing the return of the ‘90s baggy low-rise silhouette, despite the fact I didn’t know anyone who wore anything close to that style in my youth. I would describe my current style as sporty yet polished, and I love how the baggy, low-slung fit has “jean-ified” sweatpants into something chicer without compromising comfort. For daytime, I’ll typically pair them with a simple white tee, an oversized blazer, and sneakers, a look that easily transitions to nighttime with a quick switch to stilettos and the addition of a clutch.”

— Troi Jackson-Conn, Senior Creative, Experiential 

Baggy High-Rise Jeans

“What do Angela Moore (Boy Meets World), Ashley Banks (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), Maxine Shaw (Living Single), and Denise Huxtable (The C*sby Show, A Different World) all have in common? They’re Black women with iconic style who all rocked a baggy high-waisted pant — and rocked it well. These jeans were a ’90s denim staple, and I, for one, am thrilled that they’ve made a return so I can finally have a chance to participate. Though I admired them through the TV screen, my 12 years of Catholic school uniforms didn’t allow for much sartorial creativity. In many ways, I feel like I’m only now, as an adult, developing my personal style, and those early days of watching my favorite Black girls on TV are proving to have a huge impact.

“Something about the slouchy fit of high-waisted baggy jeans makes a girl look and feel so cool, no matter how you style them. Personally, I like to pair mine with a teeny crop top and oversized button-up shirt, a tucked-in baggy tee cinched at the waist with a belt, or even with heels and a nice blouse.”

— Christa Eduafo, Social Content Stragetist

Low-Rise Flares

“When I first heard whispers that a low-rise jean resurgence was brewing back in 2018, I shuddered in fear, immediately haunted by images of my former eighth-grade self pairing the tightest low-rise flares I could find with my secret collection of bedazzled, printed thongs. Yes, I participated in the whale tail trend at age 13 (you know, whenever my parents or teachers weren’t around) — and yes, it was super cringe. I clutched my high-rise denim and hoped that, even though we were fast approaching the 20-year mark of when low-rise jeans first emerged (and thus indicating their inevitable return), they would remain in 2002.

“Fast forward to 2022, and the Y2K revival now has fashion in a chokehold, with everyone from celebrities to regular folks embracing the return of the low-rise silhouette. I don’t personally participate in all the trends I write about, but low-rise jeans have started to grow on me…and I can’t really explain why. Have my social feeds subconsciously influenced me? Perhaps, or maybe it’s that the more popular the trend gets, the more I want to wear it ironically and have some fun, pairing it with other gaudy trends of the Y2K era, like a bedazzled baby tee, or chic basics, like an open oversized button-down or a blazer. Either way, after years of wearing solely high-rise everything, from my denim to my bikinis, I think I’m ready for my lower midriff to spend some time in the sun — though I think I’ll keep my G-string hidden this time around.”

— Jenna Igneri, Fashion Editor, Branded Content

Boyfriend Jeans

“A trend I always, always wanted to wear growing up but never did was the early aughts boyfriend jean. Neither high-waisted nor ultra low-rise, it had that perfect in-between waistline, and I loved that it was more relaxed than the skinny jean, chicer than a flare, and could be paired with pretty much any style of footwear. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to wear them. Sported only by those I perceived as “cool girls,” I just felt like it wasn’t a style I could confidently wear — in my mind, I didn’t have the right body type for them (the ’00s were a weird time for body image, y’all!).

“Needless to say, the times have changed, and now I can’t imagine wearing any other style of jeans. Ever versatile, I’ll pair them with sneakers and a blazer for a casual work ensemble or with a kitten heel and a cute top for dinner with friends. And while I follow the latest in fashion and I’m always game for trying out the latest trends, I appreciate that the boyfriend jean is a more timeless denim fit, not something I’ll be tossing after one season. We’re all thinking more about how we can be more sustainable when it comes to our closets, and boyfriend jeans are absolutely a style that’ll be a staple in mine for years to come.”

— Sara Tan, Beauty Director

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