What are Low Rise Jeans?

wiseGEEK Writer

The rise in a pair of pants is the measured distance between the crotch of the pant and the waist. Low-rise jeans, also called hipsters, hip huggers, or low-cut jeans, just a few of the alternate names, are characterized by a short rise that sits significantly below the belly button instead of at the waist. The first versions of these jeans were hip huggers, worn in the late 1960s and early 1970s, mostly by people of the hippy culture.

Low-rise jeans tend to sit far below the bellybutton.
Low-rise jeans tend to sit far below the bellybutton.

Hip huggers in this early stage did feature a lower rise, but often were only an inch or two ( cm) below the belly button. These low-rise jeans were often very snug to the knee and then flared into bell-bottoms. With hip huggers, nothing between waist and knee was left to the imagination because of their form fitting style. Many hip hugger wearers joked about having to pour themselves into the jeans.

A woman wearing low rise jeans.
A woman wearing low rise jeans.

When low-rise jeans were reintroduced in the early 1990s, some did resemble the hip hugger style. Others had a flared bottom or boot cut, and yet others were less tight. Trends in the 2000s have shortened the pants length of many types of jeans, and they may be featured with a Capri cut, a palazzo style pant, or a pedal pant style. Straight-legged jeans have often replaced the flared leg or boot cut style of the 1990s low-rise jeans.

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Underwear should not be visible above the waistline.
Underwear should not be visible above the waistline.

These jeans have not been appreciated by all. Some have a waistband so low that they do display the top part of the buttocks, especially if you bend over, sit or squat down. Some have declared them to be indecent because of this exposure. Both men and women may wear low-rise jeans, and especially when women wear them, it’s considered a fashion don’t to let the underwear show above the waistline.

A woman wearing low rise jeans.
A woman wearing low rise jeans.

For women, wearing bikini style underwear usually easily solves this problem. Some women do insist on wearing thongs that are high cut and plainly visible above the low-rises jeans. This is considered not classy and a fashion faux pas. For men, underwear showing above the rise is more common and accepted. Gangsta fashion, with extra-large pants often makes a point of showing boxer shorts above the waistband. For most occasions, though, underwear and boxer shorts are supposed to be under clothing, and displaying them is not considered in good taste.

Though not everyone enjoys wearing low-rise jeans, many admit that a slightly lower rise in pants is figure flattering. Pants that sit just above the hipbone, instead of fitting at the waist elongate the figure. Many now make fun of the higher waist style of jeans more typical of the past, calling them “mom jeans.” Several comedy shows have poked fun at the high waist jean in this manner, as only suited to moms of a certain age.

For women, wearing fashionable and bikini style underwear is best with low rise jeans is the best choice.
For women, wearing fashionable and bikini style underwear is best with low rise jeans is the best choice.

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Discussion Comments


@Post4: Which prudish town do you live in, and was that a serious question? Low-rise jeans look horrible on overweight girls, but they look fantastic on tanned, fit females with flat tummies. A fitted top, with one to two inches of tummy showing, paired with some proper low-rise jeans (not the ones in the photos on this website, those are mid-rise jeans), looks very sexy and cute.


Low rise jeans are horrible. Who wants to see your belly button? Who wants to see a beer belly on a woman?


Comfy shoes--- a high waist jean is not flattering to women who are overweight. Instead, look for a mid-rise jean, where pants are just about at the belly button.

There are also some jeans with a shorter last in front and a longer last in the back. These curved styles provide extra modesty with the lower cut. The high waist jean does not project a slimmer image at all and tends to be immensely unflattering.

The mid-rise jean, especially with a curved back, is much more appropriate. See shows like "What not to Wear" for more explanation on this. Also, for heavier women, boot cut or flared styles balance the width in the hip. Pants should definitely not be tapered or they create a sense of sticking out hips (an apple shape really).


Comfyshoes- I agree with you. Sometimes people that wear the low rise jeans don’t realize that others can see more than just their underwear.

I think having a longer top, or bending over when not too many people are around is best. Maybe they could ask someone to pick something up off the floor for them so that they don’t bend over.


Great article- I agree that low rise jeans are flattering if the person is thin. But even though a person is thin allowing underwear to show is not flattering and is offensive to those around the person with the low rise jeans.

When wearing low rise jeans, you really have to be cognizant of your actions and make sure you wear a top that covers your back when you bend over.

If one is overweight than a more flattering jean style would be a high waist jean which projects a slimmer image. This style is not only more flattering for the full figured woman, but it is also more comfortable.

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