The High Riser: A History of Waist-Whittling, Leg-Lengthening Perfection

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The days of the super-low rise seem to have been left back in the aughts. (Can we all breathe a sigh of relief?) The pendulum is swinging upward now (“pendulum” being the optimum word as high rises aren’t a new thing). Let’s take a look back, from the high riser’s subtly sexy beginnings to its very welcome resurgence.

“We’re only seeing rises get higher and higher,” says our head denim designer, Mary. “A high rise naturally emphasizes the feminine shape of a woman but isn’t overtly sexy.” A few extra inches, it seems, holds a lot of style power.

THE ’50s

During this era of waist-whittling silhouettes, women embraced the high riser’s ability to emphasize the natural curve of their bodies. In a way, it mirrored the shape of popular dresses at the time. Iconic high-riser moment: Marilyn Monroe in The Misfits owning the casual sexiness of a crisp white shirt tucked into high-waisted jeans.

THE ’60s

Denim became the uniform of activists and rebels as the civil rights movement and counterculture took hold in the 1960s. The personalized jean—think patchwork, paint and embroidery—made its first appearance.

THE ’70s

With the free-spirited ’70s came the flare jean, a hit among style icons like Jane Birkin and Debbie Harry, who fully embraced the coy tomboy feel of a body-skimming tee tucked into their high-waisted flares. Iconic high riser moment: Farrah Fawcett flying down the street on a skateboard.

THE ’80s

As counterculture cooled, so did the flare jean, but the high rise stayed strong through the ’80s. From a sleek and straight leg in deep indigo to acid-washed tapered styles, designer jeans became a true status symbol.

CURRENT DAY

Our new denim crush—Flea Market Flares—harken back to the ’70s and the easy, carefree attitude the decade possessed. Once the weather warms up, a flat sandal is an effortless option. In the spring, a heel (not a wedge, this isn’t, after all, the ’70s) really gets at that “legs-for-days” thing. As they say, some things change, some stay the same.

Shop our denim bar here.

Photography by Angi Welsch.