The swollen bubble of the 80s burst, in spectacular fashion, with the economic depression of the 90s. This hit denim sales hard and Levi’s, the world’s largest manufacturer, were forced to close eleven of their North American factories. The problem, however, was deeper than economics as the 80s denim boom had wounded the youthful anti-establishment reputation of the jean. Youngsters growing up in the 90s wanted to break away from this denim explosion and now looked to new styles such as khakis, combats, and branded sportswear.
Set against this denim malaise, innovation came from another emerging subculture that would adopt the fabric as its own. The 90s saw hip hop move firmly into the mainstream, as pioneers like Public Enemy, De La Soul, and Gang Starr handed over to hungry young talents and future household names such as Nas, Wu Tang Clan, and Dr Dre. Alongside the music, hip hop introduced a loose and relaxed denim fit that would dominate the late 90s and 2000s.
Carpenter jeans and head-to-toe denim were among the most trendy looks, as well as overalls and shortalls, which were popular among women. For men, the rise of hip hop brought along a rise in popularity of baggy jeans and saggy denim.