90s Jeans: The Fabric Of Our Lives

Woman wearing denim 90s jeans
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Last Updated on December 9, 2022

Look, I wear jeans every single day, except for summer, and even then, I cut my jeans off and wear them as shorts.

It’s the fabric of our lives, right next to plastic, so we’ve been reinventing it for while, now. The 90s brought a lot of…interesting jeans, and some cool ones we’re still wearing today. 

Baggy jeans

Skinny jeans were not a thing back in the 90s, as I’m sure you know, and guess what, Linda? They’re going out of style, now, too. No need to panic – we live in a wonderful, democratic fashion time where anything goes, but if you want to be at the height of fashion, that means baggy jeans.

With the rise of grunge, hip-hop, and rap to fame, and the popularization of athletic styles during the 90s, figures like MC Hammer and Eminem made baggy pants of all kinds an easily identifiable must-have for kids that loved their music. They were also preferred by skateboarders and breakdancers due to the freedom of movement they allowed.

Prioritizing comfort and wearability, baggy jeans are one of my favorite jeans ever. Why? As I get older I tend to go for looser fits that have a relaxed silhouette and allow me to pair them up with literally anything in my closet. Of course, my long-lasting love for baggy jeans dates back to the 90s, when they were all the rage. The 90s effortless and relaxed shape is a classic that will never go out of style. Modern designers have continuously reinterpreted it to “revamp” it somehow to prompt sales, but let’s be real… The ultimate baggy jeans don’t need any of that! 

Baggy jeans are somewhat similar to the straight jeans, but they have taken things one step further, making more room for your legs to move freely while tapering the ankle making the sagging silhouette more noticeable. Their main characteristics are: dressed down style, faded washes, wide legs, tapered ankles, and low waistlines. 

Recent styles have kept all this but moved the waistline up, favoring mid to high waistlines. Out of which, mid-waistlines hid a little belly much better, while high styles slim down the butt and thighs. Despite having a low point of unpopularity during the 2000s, baggy styles never truly fell into anonymity, in big part thanks to skaters and rollers that kept on using them against other more fashionable styles. 

Or at least, baggy-ER jeans. Boyfriend jeans, girlfriend jeans, straight leg jeans, mom jeans peg leg jeans – they’re all here to stay for a while, and that’s cool, cause they’re comfy as hell, even if they make your butt look big. You can escape Frump City by wearing a tighter (preferably cropped) top with them.

Bootcut Jeans

This is arguably one of the most functional denim styles and it only made a comeback in 1995-96. Originally, the bootcut style came about to make wearing boots more comfortable, which is why this style still is heavily associated with the cowboy aesthetic. But during the 90s, it became popular with teens and young adults in a massive way (together with cowboy boots, I might add!). 

A particular pair of jeans that I remember super fondly was these darker bootcut jeans from Tommy Hilfiger that had an American flag logo. Feels like such a long time ago! Makes me super nostalgic!

Boyfriend Jeans

There is some general confusion regarding the difference between boyfriend jeans and mom jeans. I mean, they are pretty similar, I get it. The difference is small but it makes all the difference in how they fit different types of bodies. If you have ever really stolen your boyfriend’s jeans you know what I mean. 

Since men’s bodies are different, their jeans are designed to fit different proportions. This translates to a loser and slouchier pair of jeans when worn by a woman. The fit on the waist is also quite different, whereas mom jeans are tight around the waist and emphasize it, boyfriend jeans tend to ride low and require a belt! They have a loose fit through the waist and most importantly the thighs. They end up creating a baggy silhouette without being baggy per se. 

In my personal opinion, boyfriend jeans look great and make your waist appear thinner, particularly paired with tight long-sleeved shirts or cropped cardigans.  

Cartoon jeans 

When I was 10 years old, I had a pair of jeans with the 101 Dalmatians and I freaking loved those things. I literally wore them non-stop until an actual dog (not a Dalmatian, but a Chihuahua) sunk its teeth into them, and into me, by extension. True story.  

Anyway, what I’m saying is that I would like to relive those days of glory (minus the dog bite and the tetanus shot) by getting a brand new pair of cartoon jeans. They’re fun, they’re quirky, and you can wear whatever boring top, because they make a statement. 

Cargo Pants, but keeping it denim

Sure thing, they weren’t the most common type of cargo pants out there, since most people favored the casual flannel or cotton type. But, sure thing, denim cargo was the 90s do for teens!

My favorite thing about cargo pants is definitely the pockets. I mean, after having tight jeans for most of my adult life, let’s be real. You can’t usually fit a thing on your front pocket and the back pockets are a hazard for your cellphone’s safety! So with cargo pants, you can forgo the purse and have your hands free!

My favorite pairing is denim cargo in green or desert camo prints. There is something so very grunge about wearing them with a strap top and a little bling to make them more feminine. A winning look, for sure!

Chic jeans

Listen, chic is whatever you want it to be – to a certain extent. Anything can be chic, if you rock it with confidence and you’re one of THOSE girls, but there are also things that are considered “objectively” chic. Right now, it’s the trendy cropped ones, high-waisted ones, and kick-flares. Bet you never thought you’d actively go out to buy highwaters, did you?

The thing about “chic” jeans is that they go with absolutely everything and they make any outfit cool, you know? So, pick them out carefully and maybe you’ll be able to wear them for more than one season. 

Denim jeans

They’ve come out with jeans of all kind and in all kinds of materials, but I personally shun those. I’m a jeans purist, which means I only accept denim. Real, rugged, thick, non-elasticated denim. And if that’s too rough for you, go back to leggings. 

Sorry, I’m not trying to gatekeep. I just think denim jeans are the most classic and look the best, and they are ridiculously versatile. I can’t think of an occasion where jeans would be inappropriate, barring like, a Royal wedding, but we’re not getting one of those again until one of the fresh batch of royals is getting hitched, and that’s not for another 20 years.

Distressed jeans 

I keep seeing how distressed jeans are in fashion, but…they’re always in fashion. At this point, they’ve become a modern classic, so there is no real need to stress out over whether you’re soooo 2018 by wearing them – you’re fine. 

Distressed jeans are definitely on the casual side, so I would exactly recommend taking them to church or to your aunt’s wedding, but if you’re hanging out with your friends, going out to see a gig, or wearing jeans shorts out to a picnic, distressed ones are a-okay.

Flare / wide leg jeans

Look, I’ve spend a lot of time and effort fighting this, but I’ve got to accept the inevitable – flare jeans are back, in some capacity, and I will learn to love it, damn it. They can be VERY cool, in their own kind of hippie-ish Flower Power way, and they look bangin’ with heels. 

You can update them by wearing them with ugly, chunky sneakers. I’m sure Kendall jenner has some sort of outfit featuring them, she is always the first one to jump on the 90s trends. 

Floral jeans

Is there anything more Flower Power-y than literal floral jeans? I wore holes into a pair of these (yes, of course they ripped in the rear) and I would do it again, because they were dreamy. 

The best thing about these is that you can combine the floral trend with the embroidery trend and embroider your own jeans. That way, you get to pick the pattern and the colours, but just a word of caution, as someone who’s worked with jeans before – it’s VERY difficult to sew on this fabric, so be prepared for long hours of careful and frustrating labour. But it’s all worth it!

Fringe jeans

Gonna say it now, not a big fan of fringe. It’s not for me, I’m not into it, and I just now got a horrifying flashback of a pair of VERY flared jeans with a thick fringed hem. The PTSD is real. 

HOWEVER, you might like them and you don’t have to make your sartorial choices based on my personal childhood trauma. If you enjoy fringe, then live your cowboy fantasy, partner! Yee-haw!

Women’s Midi Waisted Butt Lift Stretch Ripped Skinny Jeans Distressed Tassel Washed Long Denim Pants

Grunge / Ripped jeans 

Ripped jeans are always in fashion, and do you know why people love them? Not because Kurt Cobain wore them (although he is an American hero, I think we can all agree), but because they dress down any outfit. You could probably wear a ball gown and if you paired it with ripped jeans, it’ll look casual and understated. I wouldn’t necessarily put that theory to the test. 

Hip hop jeans

You KNOW what these jeans look like, and if you don’t, SPOILER ALERT! – they’re baggy as hell. No, seriously, you’ll want to wear your nice undies underneath, because the world will know. 

Hip hop jeans go wonderfully with all these different types of sports shoes we’ve been seeing, from ugly dad sneakers to Converse and that whole Vans revival that’s happening. Who knew your middle school faves would ever be in fashion again? Let’s just hope Emo doesn’t come back, because I’ll be forced to burn it to the ground. 

Leather front jeans 

Thinking about trying out some leather pants, but don’t want to commit to going for that full-on KISS realness? What about just a leather front? That’s right, you can go for just half a rocker look, if you’re not all the way there, in your heart.

Faux Leather Front Jean Women’s 

They may look a little silly, once you get a look in the back, but from the front, they look bangin’ and that’s all that matters, in the end. 

Low rise jeans 

This is one of the most nostalgic and expressive styles of jeans. It hit its maximum popularity around the late 90s, particularly in 1997. It is perhaps, even the most recognized 90s trend of them all because of its wide-leg silhouette and low waist.

Whenever I think of flared jeans I remember how my favorite pairs forced you to be looking for showing undies when you sat down. There were also the retro flared jeans that we got on flea markets (probably from the 70s) that were high-waisted and looked amazing with crop tops. Those were not easy to find!

We owe this style in big part to Alexander McQueen and to Madonna, both huge lovers of showing the hip bone and a little derriere. JNCO jeans also contributed by making the style accessible to the masses. Later on, Christina Aguilera and Britney took flared jeans to the next level during the 2000s, but that is another story!

Low rise jeans are the worst thing that ever happened to humankind, as far as I’m concerned, and I have no desire to relive the days of instant muffin tops, waist bands digging into my hip bones, whale tails (that’s the super classy thing where your thongs come out of your jeans…), or having to get a bikini wax in order to wear super low rise jeans.

If you’re too young to have endured the horror the first time round, then maybe you need some schooling on the matter, so go ask your older sister or mother – we ALL have low rise jeans war stories.

Mom jeans

Do I even need to talk about these? You’re probably wearing them right now. I know I am. The ugliest, frumpiest, big-butt-iest jeans are back. We are reunited and it feels soooo good.

Look, these aren’t for everyone, but it’s still my firm belief that they are flattering on everyone and there’s a way to make them work, unlike low rise jeans. You just need to find the right pair. 

High-waisted, comfy, made from REAL sturdy denim (none of that stretchy spandex BS) – I just don’t see what’s not to love about these. Yeah, sure, they make our butts look big, but so what? Kim Kardashian made an empire out of that. 

Rave jeans

Rave clothes are batsh*t, but I bet you already knew that. These are next level, because they’re very very very flared, and they’re pretty unisex, which means both you and your bae can rock these AT THE SAME TIME. Justin and Britney who? THIS is the real power couple dressing, right there. 

Skinny jeans

See what I mean? You can totally keep wearing your skinny jeans, it doesn’t mean that they’ll disintegrate on your legs while you’re wearing them just because mom jeans are more popular, now. You just need to style them right. 

Just switch from your super dark wash to a true blue and pair them with a white, floaty top, a bardot top, or a cropped t-shirt, and you will have instantly made these babies more 90s and more fashionable. 

Straight leg jeans

Despite being more of a late-80s kinda model, the straight-leg jeans were certainly popular in the early years of the 90s and until 1993.

They are still super popular, especially with older generations. My mom swears by her worn-out almost white straight Levi’s jeans. She still adores them to this day!

The main qualities of straight jeans are a high, accentuated waist, a straight untapered leg with a relaxed fit that is not too loose, and a clean aesthetic or light wash. Think Brooke Shields in that famous Calvin Klein ad.

I think that out of all the trendy jeans styles, this is one of the top go-to styles for women around the world. It’s one of those wardrobe staples that is always mentioned in capsule wardrobes and with good reason. It favors almost all types of bodies, it is everlasting, a classic icon that always looks right no matter the occasion and place. It is also super flattering!

The secret behind why straight legs jeans are preferred by middle-aged women and have gained the “mom jeans” moniker is mainly because they accentuate the waist without overemphasizing the leg. They make women feel comfortable and don’t over-accentuate none of the body areas that aging women tend to have problems with. 

Striped jeans

Beetle Juice, Beetle Juice, Beetle Juice! 

…is what people will shout at your on the street if you wear striped jeans. No, I’m kidding, that was only that one time. And it’s funny. Striped jeans are not only VERY 70s (and 90s), they are also incredibly slimming.

The most slimming. Especially if they’re high-waisted, a bit flared, and if you wear them with heels, your legs will look miles long and everyone else will be hella jealous. 

If the classic black and white is entirely too Beetle-Juice-y for you, you can always go for a different colour combo. 

Read: Step Aside Skinny Jeans: These are the Best Bootcut Jeans for all Body Types

Spliffy jeans

Okay, these are hilarious. Do you remember Spliffy? Well, someone’s apparently trying to bring them back, and to that I say YES. I mean, they brought every other godawful trend back, so why not these? They’re cute!

You can wear them ironically, but also…not. With a tight top and some cool shoes, no one will know that you also rocked these 20 years ago. 

Will anyone ever be able to pry your skinny jeans from your cold, dead hands?