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", "hipster jeans", and "lowriders". Usually they sit at least 8 centimetres (3 inches) lower than the belly button. Low-rise jeans have existed since the 1960s, but regained popularity in the 2000s.
The "rise" of any jeans is determined by the distance between the crotch and the waist and is usually around 30 cm (12 inches) on regular pants. In comparison, the average measurement of low-rise jeans is roughly 20 cm (8 inches), with some as little as 7–10 cm (3-4 inches). Several jeans brands also reflect the rise on the zipper, by creating pants with zippers far shorter than regular pants, usually between 5 and 7 cm (2-3 inches), and some manufacturers, such as Dorinha Jeans Wear, even provide 2.5 cm (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 is rather a display of fashion.
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 and were incorporated into the disco scene of the 1970s.
During the early 1980s, however, 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.
The 1990s revival of low-rise jeans can be credited to British fashion designer Alexander McQueen, who first showed his famous low-rise "bumster" trousers in his 1993 "Taxi Driver" collection show. One commentator observed: "The bumster for me is what defined McQueen. For me it was the look that put him on the map because it was controversial. Those little bumsters were in his first shows. It was like 20 people in England were wearing them back then." Following McQueen's lead, the fashion of low-rise jeans gradually spread, though not many women dared go as low as McQueen's signature buttock-bearing style.
In America, the fashion emerged in 2001, particularly among youth; Britney Spears is most credited with popularising the fashion in the US after she started wearing it in 2000. 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 American teenage and twenty-something-oriented retail stores that carry jeans (e.g., Guess, American Eagle, Abercrombie & Fitch, Stitches) only or mostly carry low-rise jeans.
Low-rise jeans are manufactured in many styles. Tight jeans are usually the most popular, but low-rise jeans 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 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. At first (2000-2002), the low rise style frequently revealed the thong or g-string underneath, but after a year or two this fell out of favour and low-rise versions took over. When the wearer sits down or bends forward, sometimes cleavage is 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.
Attempted bans in the US
State Legislator Derrick Shepherd of the state of Louisiana in the USA made an attempt in 2004 to outlaw 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 have been fined $500 if the bill had become law. The bill, HB 1703, was rejected by the Louisiana House of Representatives.
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, the lateral cutaneous nerve of thigh, 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 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.
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- "Memo to Britney: Lose the low-slungs", Bethany Thomas, NBC News, May 13, 2004. Retrieved February 12, 2010.