Low-rise pants, also known as "low-cut jeans", "lowriders" or "rap pants", are a type of pants that sit low on, or below, the hips, usually at least 8 centimetres (3 inches) lower than the navel. Low-rise pants have been available since the 1960s, in styles for both men and women, with popularity increasing in the West in the early 1970s.
The "rise" of any bottom apparel is determined by the distance between the crotch and the waist and is usually around 30 centimetres (12 in) on regular pants. In comparison, the average measurement of low-rise trousers is roughly 20 centimetres (7.9 in), with some as little as 7–10 centimetres (2.8–3.9 in). 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 centimetres (2.0 and 2.8 in), and some manufacturers, such as Dorinha Jeans Wear, even provide 2.5-centimetre (0.98 in) 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 pants, were designed by Irene Kasmer, in 1957, in Los Angeles, and rose to popularity during the mid 1960s, with the mod fashion subculture, and with the hippies in the late 1960s. 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 late 1970s and 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 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. 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 pants gradually spread. The iconic low-rise fashion emerged in 2000, particularly among youth; Britney Spears is most credited with popularizing the fashion in the US after she started wearing them that year until around 2009. Although its popularity also increased among women and men of other ages, the major focus of advertising was 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 carried jeans (e.g., Guess, American Eagle, Abercrombie & Fitch, Stitches) only or mostly carried low-rise jeans during this time.
In recent years,[when?] low-rise pants are experiencing a resurgence in popularity due to their association with early 2000s fashion, which in turn is being revitalized on social media platforms like TikTok for a new generation of teenagers. They have regained popularity in the early 2020s thanks to K-pop stars wearing them on regular occasions. Zendaya celebrating her 26th birthday wore her low rise jeans and cropped top baring her midriff and belly button.
Low-rise jeans are manufactured in many styles, including boot-cut, flared, loose, straight, baggy, skinny, boyfriend, and slim. Due to the popularity of low-rise jeans, manufacturers have also begun making low-rise styles of other kinds of pants, such as cargo pants and dress pants. Low-rise jeans may be worn to display more skin at the waist, torso, and hips. Accordingly, they are sometimes worn in combination with crop tops, revealing skin between the jeans and the top, or (more commonly in the summer or in warmer countries) exposing the entire midriff including the navel. From 2001 to 2007, the low-rise style frequently revealed the thong or G-string worn as undergarments, but after 2007 this fell out of favor as thongs began their decline. When the wearer sits down or bends forward, sometimes rear cleavage is visible. When a thong is exposed above a pair of low-rise jeans at the back, it is commonly referred to as a whale tail due to its characteristic shape. When boxer shorts become visible this is known as "sagging". With underwear often clearly exposed, more men and women would choose undergarments to coordinate with their low-rise jeans.
- Ultra-low bikini jeans - only for the daring – 2008 article in the Daily Telegraph (UK)
- Hiphuggers' tingly thighs – 2003 article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal
- The woes of low-rise pants – Has America's low-rise obsession gone too far? – 2003 article on Slate.com