The denim company’s response to the massive sneaker market.
There is nothing like the excitement that comes with unboxing and wearing a new pair of sneakers; there is nothing like the agony that comes with realizing you have nothing to wear your new kicks with. Over the past few years, as sneakers have exploded in both size and popularity, pants have been forced to mutate in response. Hypebeasts adopted joggers that cinched at the ankle. Cropped trousers crept higher up legs. Pants got big and wide to accommodate chunky dad shoes—call it sympathy weight. One side-effect: jeans, so easily pooled over your sneakers, fell out of favor. Denim sales declined for years, before starting to rebound in 2017. So Levi’s is fighting back, trying to make its jeans as sneaker-friendly as a pair of joggers.
The brand has rolled out a new silhouette, christened the Hi‑Ball Roll Jeans, that’s engineered specifically for sneakerheads—or anyone else who blanches in terror at the idea of pairing pants and shoes. According to the product listing, the jeans are cropped higher than a typical Levi’s and even come with a 2” pre-rolled cuff. Could you just... buy jeans then roll the cuff yourself? Sure! But why leave anything to chance?, These jeans are a flashlight for dudes who feel like they’re putting their clothes on in the dark, a cheat code to what feels like an increasingly difficult video game. They’re also Levi’s way of reminding people that they can wear their sneakers with their jeans in the most straightforward way possible.
These pants are a direct response to the exploding sneaker market, which is now valued at $19.6 billion (admittedly, still only a slice of the $92.9 billion global jeans market). “Created with today’s sneakerhead culture in mind, our Hi-Ball Roll Jeans provide the perfect canvas for showing off your favorite shoes,” Levi’s wrote in a blog post announcing the new style. For most guys, style is now something they consider from the ground up and the best thing Levi’s can do is get out of the way—provide that “perfect canvas” for what men really care about: sneakers.
Levi’s is also mirroring popular styles in the athleisure market with other versions of the Hi-Ball jeans. There are versions of the jean with side seams—the Levi’s logo runs down the leg of one pair—like a pair of track pants. Even the names of washes take cues from the world of streetwear with basketball-inspired labels: “buzzer beater,” “dead ball,” “swish rinse,” “two pointer.” How do you do, fellow NBA fans?
There is no one more sympathetic than I am to the plight of people who can’t figure out which pants to wear with their sneakers. I bought a pair of Nike x Acronym Vapormaxes and had to rethink everything in my closet—and I and heard back from a lot of guys who felt the same way. There’s clearly a market to serve here. I’m not sure if jeans with pre-rolled cuffs are the solution, but they’re certainly an entry point for guys who don’t want to revamp their entire wardrobe for a pair of shoes. It’s easy to make jeans with pre-rolled cuffs and present them as a solution to denim-fearing sneakerheads. Harder is making naturally great jeans that people just really want to wear. But maybe those two things are becoming the same now.
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