A lot of early 00s trends are coming back—from whale tails to trucker hats, micro mini skirts to bedazzled Bebe tops. But one resurrected style has many people reaching for the pause button: low cut jeans.
For millennials, the hip-grazing jeans are a trigger of body-shaming and thinness culture. They can also pinch the nerve on your hip bone and cause numbness.
1. Go Y2K.
Whether you’re a full-on vintage girlie or just love a good nostalgia trend, low cut jeans should be your jam. And no, that doesn’t mean they have to be ripped or cropped – although you can totally go that route, too. What’s important is that you embrace the Y2K aesthetic, which is defined by wide-leg jeans, oversized crop tops, and kitsch accessories like sparkly barrettes and zig-zag headbands.
The Y2K fashion movement was also defined by its obsession with celebrity culture, and influencers like Britney Spears and *NSYNC served as trendsetters for this aesthetic. It’s no surprise that millennials and Gen Z are now welcoming the return of this look with open arms (and a pair of low cut jeans).
While gaudiness was a major element of Y2K style, it’s not necessarily a requirement to get into the trend. In fact, the resurgence of low-cut jeans could actually help you channel your inner tomboy. Baggy, baggy low-cut jeans paired with a loose blouse and thong sandals is the perfect look for a casual night out, while high-waist denim is ideal for more formal occasions.
And if you’re feeling especially daring, don’t be afraid to let your belly hang – this was an era that shamelessly prized the coveted six-pack. Alternatively, you can go full-on Britney by pairing your Y2K jeans with a thong and a fitted babydoll top or even a corset for a model-off-duty vibe.
2. Stay away from the plumber’s butt.
If you’re going to wear low cut jeans, you’ve got to do your best not to show off your plumber’s crack. This unfortunate side effect of the trend involves exposing a thin strip of skin from your hip to your butt that many people aren’t thrilled about showing.
This area can get chafed and itchy, especially if you keep tying your pants to avoid having them ride below the waist. Not only does exposing the plumber’s crack look bad, but it can also cause numbness in your thighs if you wear jeans too long.
The plumber’s crack joke spread in the 1990s, with references appearing in cartoons and live-action TV shows like Happy Gilmore, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and even an episode of The X-Files (where Mulder discovers that shapeshifting plumbers are sagging their pants, impregnating women, and then giving them tails). Some critics call this a form of ass-binding that has similar medical consequences to foot-binding. Luckily, there are plenty of options to cover up this problem, including these underwear or these pants that promise to hold your jeans up in place.
3. Shop for updated waistlines.
There’s no denying that low-cut jeans are making a comeback. The style was popular in the early 2000s, and it’s now being reimagined by modern fashionistas. It’s a trend that’s been met with a range of reactions, from positive to negative.
Nostalgia has definitely played a part in this revival, as people remember wearing the pants in the past. But they’re also being marketed to a generation who didn’t experience them firsthand. And some women feel uncomfortable with the return of a style that was once associated with fraught messages about body image and sexuality.
For example, one TikTok user said that she’s afraid low-rise jeans are coming back because they were “so hypersexualized and derogatory towards bodies.” Another added that they were popular at a time when the Bush administration was pushing abstinence-only sex education, and when Supersize Me was scolding people for their eating habits.
However, the good news is that today’s low-cut jeans don’t have to be as tight or reveal too much. The key is to shop for updated waistlines, such as a folded-over or crisscrossed look. And there are plenty of options to choose from. For example, you can find baggy low-rise denim at shops like Over the Rainbow or People’s Champ Vintage. And you can always turn to a pair of high-waisted pants or palazzo-style trousers when you’re ready for a more sophisticated look.
4. Don’t be afraid to let your belly hang.
While many men and women are jumping on the low-slung jeans bandwagon, it’s important to remember that they’re a throwback silhouette that was once worn by bodybuilders, wrestlers, and surfers. For that reason, these baggy denim pieces should not be worn by anyone who wants to remain upright in public.
Whether you want to wear them as a nod to the past or as a statement of individuality, there’s no doubt that the low-rise jeans trend is here to stay. But don’t worry, you can always dress them up or down depending on your style. You can pair your high-waisted ripped jeans with a silk shirt or a cotton button-down for a more sophisticated look, or you can rock a more casual vibe by wearing them with a sweater.
Fashion law dictates that loose pants must be paired with tight tops, but that doesn’t have to be the case. You can try a wide-leg jean with a chunky sweater for a more relaxed look or even wear them with a long, fitted blazer to give off a vintage-inspired aesthetic.
In an era when we were obsessed with flat stomachs and the six-pack, low-cut jeans were the perfect accessory to showcase your physique. And while some may see this return of the throwback silhouette as harmless, others are concerned that it could be a sign of a bigger change in the way we view women’s bodies. The shift from 2010s high-rise jeans that accentuated the waist and emphasized curves to the return of low-waisted jeans that highlight a flat abdomen and minimize curves seems like an alarming move forward in our culture.