KEY POINTS

  • Levi's CEO Chip Bergh said the company found jeans were still a popular choice, despite a global pandemic keeping many people at home
  • “It’s a myth that needs to be dispelled,” Bergh said about the potential death of jeans during the pandemic
  • Jean and denim companies are still down financially year-over-year, with retailer bankruptcies and store closures only adding to it

Levi’s (LEVI) CEO Chip Bergh claims that despite many Americans being stuck at home during the pandemic, it hasn’t marked the end of jeans as a popular choice of clothing.

“It’s a myth that needs to be dispelled,” Bergh told Yahoo Finance on Monday. The interview was a casual change of pace for Bergh, who on Friday had an op-ed published by CNN imploring various companies to give their employees the free time to vote in November.

By contrast, Monday’s interview was much more relaxed as the Levi’s CEO represented his company in a pair of jeans during the interview.

“We read data all the time,” Bergh said. “If you look at the data for what consumers are wearing from the waist down, non-active apparel is still 70% of all waist-down wear. And of that, denim is about 50% of it. So the total denim category is about 30% of all apparel bottoms, if you will — the things that you're putting on your legs and your butt every single day. Denim is about 30% of it.”

One would think during a pandemic that has kept most people in their homes most of the time, they would want to be as comfortable as possible. Whether it’s a baggy t-shirt, sweatpants, or shorts, comfort would be the priority.

However, the love of denim has not subsided as evidenced by Bergh who was clad in his own pair of jeans during the interview over Zoom. He said Levi’s has tracked people’s fashion choices since the first coronavirus peak in April and found people’s clothing choices were split 50/50 between denim and others, arguably more comfortable clothing like pajamas. He said denim has started to trend back upward over the last month, as well, with people going back outside.

“It seems too early to call the death of jeans,” BMO Capital Markets retail analyst Simeon Siegel said. “It’s hard to kill categories, especially those that serve a role. Work from home in the winter will look very different.”

It doesn’t mean things are all “sunshine and rainbows” for the denim industry, which was still been down financially year-over-year. Levi’s sales in the U.S. dropped 59% in the second financial quarter of 2020, a dropped it shared with other denim makers like Wrangler and Lee. Clothing retailer J.C. Penney declaring bankruptcy and Macy’s closing stores across the U.S. has only exacerbated this drop, though it will be worth seeing if the deans of denim will experience a notable upswing once the coronavirus pandemic has passed.

An earlier version of this article misspelled Chip Bergh's last name.

Levi's jeans Levi's 501 blue jeans by U.S. clothing manufacturer Levi Strauss. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images