Low-rise jeans, worn by both men and women, are jeans intended to sit low on,
or below, the hips. They are also called lowcut jeans, hipsters, hip-huggers and
lowriders. Usually they sit at least three inches (7.6 centimetres) lower than
the belly button. Low-rise jeans have existed since the 1960s, but regained
popularity in the 1990s and 2000s.
The "rise" of a jeans is determined by the distance between the crotch and the
waist and is usually around eleven inches (28 cm) on regular pants. In
comparison, the average measurement of low-rise jeans is roughly seven inches
(18 cm), with some as little as three to four inches (7.6–10 cm). Several jeans
brands also reflect the rise on the zipper, by creating pants with zippers far
shorter than regular pants, usually between 2 and 3 inches, and some
manufacturers, such as Dorinha Jeans Wear even provide 1 inch zippers. The
latter can also be classified as "ultra low-rise jeans", and the small zipper no
longer has its traditional function, but rather becomes a display of fashion: an
additional marking of the jeans' low-rise nature.
1960s and 1970s hip-huggers
Hip-huggers, the precursor to low-rise jeans, rose to popularity during the late
1960s, with the ascendance of the hippie counterculture and psychedelic music.
Often worn with light-cotton, paisley-printed tops or nehru-collared jackets,
bell-bottomed hip-huggers were popularized by rock icons such as Jimi Hendrix,
Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Robert Plant. Later, hip-huggers became a staple
of popular culture, as it was incorporated into the disco scene of the 1970s.
However, during the early 1980s, waistlines moved higher as wide, flared,
bell-bottoms gradually gave way to designer straight-legged jeans. Throughout
the 1980s and into the early 1990s, as more women entered the corporate
workforce, the high waist design remained predominant, with commercial designers
such as Gloria Vanderbilt and Calvin Klein at the forefront.
1990s and 2000s revival
The fashion of low-rise jeans emerged in 2001, particularly among girls and boys
between the age of 14 and 25. Although its popularity also increased among women
and men of other ages, the major focus of advertising is still directed at
teenage girls and boys, with typical teen stores selling low-rise jeans in
different styles and colors. Most teenage and twenty-something-oriented retail
stores that carry jeans (e.g., Guess, American Eagle, Hollister, Stitches) only
or mostly carry low-rise jeans. In fact, it can be difficult, if not impossible,
to buy teen-sized jeans that are not low rise.
Currently, low-rise jeans are manufactured in many styles, and though tight
jeans are usually the most popular, they also exist in loose, baggy, flare and
destroyed style. Due to the popularity of low-rise jeans, manufacturers have
also begun making low-rise styles of other kinds of pants. In the stores today,
there is an immense variety available. Indeed, low-slung jeans, especially tight
black styles, have become increasingly popular in the more recent hipster scene.
Low-rise jeans exposing whale tails.
Low-rise jeans may be worn to display more skin at the waist, torso, and hips.
Accordingly, they are sometimes worn in combination with shorter crop tops,
giving a glimpse of skin between the jeans and the top, or (more commonly in the
summer or in warmer countries) showing their entire midriff including the belly
button. Low-rise jeans may also partially reveal the buttocks when the wearer
sits down or bends over. In many cases, cleavage becomes visible. When a thong
is exposed above a pair of low-rise jeans on the back, it is commonly referred
to as a whale tail, due to its somewhat similar shape. When boxer shorts become
visible this is known as "sagging". Because underwear was no longer always
hidden, more men and women choose their underwear to function with their
Low-rise jeans were also partially responsible for the trend of lower back
Legislator Derrick Shepherd of the state of Louisiana in the USA made an attempt
in 2004 to outlaw the fashion of low-rise jeans, particularly to bring a halt to
the display of underwear under the pants, claiming it to be disrespectful and
obscene. People spotted with their "whale tail" or "boxers showing" would be
fined $500. The bill, HB 1703, was rejected by the Louisiana House of
A similar bill was attempted in Hampton Roads, Virginia, USA, charging a $50
fine for anyone deliberately showing their underwear. The bill was rejected in
School dress codes sometimes also banned pants of too low a rise, or visible
In the Canadian Medical Association Journal 2003, Dr. Malvinder S. Parmar
pointed out that wearing tight low-rise jeans may put pressure on a sensory
nerve, which can cause pain and paresthesia in the nerve's area of distribution.
This is known as Meralgia paresthetica and is associated with a tingling or a
burning sensation on the lateral aspect of the thigh. The condition was
diagnosed in three mildly obese women who had worn low-rise jeans for 6–8
months. The condition resolved itself after they avoided wearing low-rise jeans
for 4–6 weeks.