You’ve probably been living under a rock if you haven’t noticed the obvious resurgence of Y2K. From music to films and aesthetics, everything remotely 90s is being replicated and recreated a million times by gen Z. While it seems innocent enough, there are a few trends that have some of us—those old enough to remember—reliving their past nightmares. Society is slowly progressing but some elements of the bygone era should stay right where they are—the 2000s. Unfortunately, we are currently in the midst of a return to the toxic idolisation of the low-rise jeans.
Low-rise jeans were at the peak of their popularity throughout the 2000s—a time where feminine people were subjected to perhaps the most unhealthy and toxic beauty standards in modern history. If you’re old enough to (unfortunately) remember or you’ve seen a noughties movie or two, you’ll definitely have heard of the overused line ‘does my butt look big in this?’—and no, gen Z, it was not in a good or rather ‘thicc’ way. We’re talking about a time when if you weren’t skinny, you were labelled ‘fat’. Because god forbid you’re fat, and so the war on fat and mid-sized bodies began and continued.
The low-rise jean, typically bootleg, falls quite low on your hip area—in line with the toxic bikini bridge trend—and is often paired with a short crop top, showcasing a person’s entire torso. Back in the day, this was further accentuated with a classic belly button piercing or a ‘tramp stamp’. The ‘tramp stamp’, now termed as a lower back tattoo, also seems to be making its coveted return after gen Zers have reclaimed the tattoo from its previously misogynistic judgements. The low-rise jeans comeback, however, lacks this element of empowerment.
Reentering the zeitgeist on TikTok no less, #lowrisejeans as of today has garnered over 70 million views on the app—with the number sure to rise rapidly. The hashtag has thousands of clips featuring people trying on and styling low-rise jeans. Crossing over with the Y2K renaissance of everything vampire and Twilight, the hashtag includes videos detailing ways to channel Elena Gilbert, from the infamous show The Vampire Diaries, inspired outfits. On the platform, low-rise jeans are paired and pulled off with tank tops, little cardigans and of course, Chucks.
‘It’s just another fashion trend, right?’ I hear you ask. Well, I hate to prove you wrong but for many, this is an insidious return to the unwaveringly toxic beauty standards of the 00s.
Fashion trends, excluding those that have cultural significance to a community—no cultural appropriation or blackfishing, please—should be open for anyone and everyone to take part in. Women, girls and feminine people of any size should be able to participate freely in this trend. However, the piece of clothing in question here is rooted in a historic nature of exclusion, fatphobia and prejudice. While many of us are perhaps too young to remember, most millennials are not fortunate enough to forget.
They remember the Juicy Couture era of Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton, the infamous visible thong trend, the ever-present body-shaming tabloids and of course, the classic thigh gap obsession; they know it all too well. Pushing back against this resurrected trend, however, has led them to come under fire from the younger generation, but their concern comes from a place of heavy trauma. The big sisters of the internet are cautioning gen Zers before they repeat history and fall down the toxic rabbit hole of eating disorders and body dysmorphia.
When describing the low-rise jeans and its aesthetic earlier, one thing literally sticks out—the torso. But not just any torso, a ‘perfectly’ flat one. An impeccably toned and taut tummy is what the re-emerging trend is all about. The aesthetic appears to be attached to a person’s skinniness as one TikTok user Colin McCarthy pointed out in a popular video, “A lot of millennial women are saying they are nervous for the low-rise pant to come back into style and they’re getting shit on, of course. Everyone’s like ‘why do you care about what a bunch of teenagers think about what you’re wearing’.”
McCarthy continued, “I think y’all need to remember, the low-rise pant, skirt, short that [were] popular—very Paris Hilton during The Simple Life era—your body was the fashion. The clothes were so casual, it was a t-shirt and jeans. You weren’t showing off what you were wearing, you were showing off your stomach. If you were anything above a [US] size 2, you were ‘fat’.” If this trend booms, we could be seeing a dramatic return to the idolisation of this body standard once again. However, we aren’t in the 2000s anymore and some things have changed—individuals like Jessica Blair are empowering people online to wear whatever the fuck they want.
The stunning influencer can be seen donning the new must-have item while telling their audience that “you don’t need a flat stomach to rock low-rise jeans.” What deters people from wearing low-rise jeans not only developed from these harmful body standards, but also the different attitudes to plus-sized bodies wearing the same items as their slimmer counterparts, Blair explains. In another video, they state that fat people were generally ignored in fashion in the 2000s—often with little clothing options open to them and “even if fat people did participate in these trends, the reactions to their outfits would be completely different. Low-rise jeans are viewed as fashionable and trending on thinner body types but they’re typically seen as ‘lazy’ or ‘unflattering’ on plus-size bodies,” they summed up.
While I won’t be rocking low-rise jeans anytime soon—I’m sorry, they just look so uncomfortable—the conversation around them and the trend remind us of a bigger issue at hand: body trends. Whether it’s an hourglass Kardashian-esque figure or the ‘heroin chic’ of the 90s and 00s, the so-called ‘trend’ of a woman’s body is outdated, objectifying and archaic. And with the insurgence of the body positive movement, you might have also witnessed the appearance of a false sense of security that times had really changed. Of course, they have in some ways, but the rise of such a toxic trend—that we thought would never return—shows us just how fragile our standards are.
Women and feminine presenting people should be able to exist neutrally in their body in any shape or size and in any decade. It’s time to see some real variety.