Ageing millennials be warned – low-rise jeans are back (but this time a little belly fat is okay)

·5-min read
hipster trousers low-rise jeans - Getty
hipster trousers low-rise jeans - Getty

The Y2K fad for ultra low-rise jeans gave rise (see what I did there?) to a number of terms that in retrospect weren’t all that kind to women. Two in particular spring to mind: whale’s tail (aka the visible thong) and the dreaded muffin top.

Speaking as someone who was a self-conscious teenager in the early Noughties, I get a momentary shudder thinking about it all. Those were the days of ‘low as you dare’ Juicy Couture tracksuits, and of Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and the entire female cast of The O.C. exposing their hip bones on every possible occasion.

Of course, all this demanded an entirely flat stomach, one that was ideally bronzed to Los Angeles standards, even if you lived in the UK. I remember girls in my school doing 100 sit-ups a day to look good in their Miss Selfridge jeans, or eating a single boiled egg at night for dinner. Mishaps with fake tan were all but inevitable.

low-rise jeans fashion style clothes - Getty Images
low-rise jeans fashion style clothes - Getty Images

Looking back a decade later, women asked themselves why they did it. “Low-rise pants are walking billboards for extreme thinness and androgynous frames, but high-rise styles can conform to bodies of all shapes and sizes,” said Rachel Syme, writing in The New Yorker in 2019. “They not only highlight hips and butts—they demand them.”

So it might seem like particularly bad news for ageing Millennials - and their mothers really - that the public enemy number one is back. Lyst says that searches for hipster trousers are up by 58 percent, while on resale app Depop, they are up 36 percent since the start of the year. The good news, though, is that low-rise jeans are mostly being worn by people who weren’t old enough to remember them the first time around. Or, more likely, who weren’t even alive.

This means that anyone over 30 can choose to ignore the fad for hipster trousers altogether. But if you’d like to try them, take comfort in the fact that we live in an undoubtedly more forgiving era than Y2K. In the early Noughties, it was women’s bodies that were in fashion, not the clothes - and trends were born from the desire to show off tiny, size 6 figures. These were the days of Heat magazine’s circle of shame, after all. But thankfully popular culture has changed hugely in the last two decades.

low-rise hipster trousers -  Getty Images
low-rise hipster trousers - Getty Images

As a result, our perception of these hipster trousers has also changed. Whereas before low-rise jeans demanded perfection - and starvation - now they're being worn by pregnant women, women who aren’t a size 8, and older women.

And yes of course, given the acres of tummy usually on display, they’re still more popular among the very young and very toned: model Bella Hadid and singer Dua Lipa have been wearing baggy low rise styles since last summer. American actress Julia Fox stepped out in New York recently in a pair of showstopping thong pants by Miaou and Diesel jeans with built-in boots - a combination that couldn’t be more Y2K if it tried. Earlier this week, during her latest dinner with new boyfriend Kanye West, Fox wore another pair of ultra-low leather trousers with a black crop top.

But then again, Emily Ratajowski wore hers when she was eight months pregnant - and many of the street style stars pictured in the trend don’t have ultra-toned tummies and don’t seem remotely bothered about that. As one user on TikTok pointed out, the style looks more authentic when it’s worn confidently by someone with a little belly fat.

molly goddard jeans  - Ben Broomfield
molly goddard jeans - Ben Broomfield

So - if you’ve decided you do want to revisit the trend, how do you style them? When it comes to being fashionable: the lower the waistband the better. Show your hip bones, show your lower belly, maybe even show your knickers. Whereas in 2001, we tried to hide our pants under the waistband, many of these new styles come with built-in underwear you can pull up over your hips. This has most notably been done by Miaou - an ultra fashionable label credited with kicking off the trend. Whether you see this as practical and fun or absolutely horrifying is entirely personal. For more life-appropriate styles, try Reformation (£150) and Calvin Klein (£51).

In terms of what you wear these trousers with - Gen Z models have opted for the smallest of crop tops, leaving acres of flesh on display. But if you look at the catwalks, Molly Goddard has paired hers with pretty tulle tops with puff sleeves that steal attention from your waistband, while at MSGM, models wore casual denim tops and made the jeans look fun and sexy and the opposite of lockdown dressing. I’d be most likely to wear the style in midsummer with something high-necked and possibly add a jacket on top.

Elizabeth Hurley jeans low-rise hipster trousers -  WireImage/Getty
Elizabeth Hurley jeans low-rise hipster trousers - WireImage/Getty

Or perhaps, I won’t wear them at all, and this points to what is arguably the biggest shift in fashion over the last two decades. It seems, finally, that trends don’t matter as much as they once did - after all, skinny jeans famously went out of fashion a few years ago and yet if you walk down any street in the UK, at least half the women will be in them. Models like Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid wear as many high-waisted trousers as they do hipster jeans, much like how most women I know are happy to wear a miniskirt one day and a flouncy prairie dress the next.

Ultimately, when it comes to the height of your waistband, opt for whatever makes you happy…

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