For the past decade, skinny jeans have dominated the denim market. First, there were the toothpick-cut classic indigo styles; brightly colored, waxed, cropped, cargo-pocketed and artfully distressed versions followed. But now, according to Bloomberg, sales of skinny styles are flagging—and fast—prompting retailers to stock their shelves with something new.
To be sure, this isn’t the first time the fashion industry’s hinted at the imminent death of the skinny jean. For the past few years, designers and retailers alike have been pushing a wider, flared trouser; a quick look at the Fall 2014 collections proves that this season is perhaps the loosest, louchest one yet. But now, there are finally hard numbers to back up those claims—denim sales took a dive over the past 12 months, while sales of women’s pants grew twice as fast as those of women’s apparel in general, reaching $8.2 billion—largely thanks to the growing popularity of slouchy slacks, according to market research firm NPD Group.
"Women basically said, ‘I’m not wearing tight jeans—I’m done with them,’" says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group Inc. Wendy Liebmann of New York research firm WSL Strategic Retail adds that the loose trouser trend "fits the size of the American shopper," noting that "it is much more forgiving for most or many women."
From a trend perspective, it’s actually pretty easy to see why shoppers have started setting aside their skinny blues. Athletic and leisure brands are dominating the retail sphere at the moment, with new stylish fitness labels launching on what feels like a weekly basis. Even outside the workout world, designers are taking cues from the gym and offering dressed-up takes on track pants and sweats. And tight denim has no place within this year’s buzzy normcore trend—it’s a strictly mom-jeans-and-overalls movement.
So what does this mean for the rest of us? If you’re nowhere near ready to trade your skinny jeans for wider, softer styles, I say don’t worry—trends come second, while comfort and confidence always come first. But if you are looking to shake it up and experiment with some less-constricting silhouettes this fall, click through above to shop seven tempting alternatives to the classic skinny jean that are worth trying.