VF Corp.-owned Riders by Lee tapped into women’s yoga-inspired denim last year with the launch Heavenly Touch denim. The new fabrication offers the ultra-soft hand of sweats with the denim washes, cuts and slimming construction the brand’s female customer base has grown to expect from the jeans brand, but comfort isn’t singular to the women’s denim market.
As Scott Baxter, VF’s head of global jeanswear, noted, “You’re going to see more of a push toward comfort as brands advance comfort product specifically for men.”
In fact, all roads for VF lead to comfort. In 2013, the company announced plans to open a global innovation jeans center in Greensboro, N.C. staffed with scientists, engineers and technical designers to develop breakthroughs and new materials — and ultimately give its brands Lee, Rock and Republic, and Wrangler a competitive edge in the market place. The center is slated to open this year, and Baxter said to count on seeing new washes, styles and technological advances geared toward improving the comfort aspects of men’s denim.
After all, VF is already finding success with its Lee men’s Modern Series. The line pairs authentic Lee designs with four-way flexible technology that moves with the wearer. The jeans are as soft as they are strong. “In the past, you saw stretch that went north and south, but if you think about how men move throughout the day, whether to play golf or work in the yard, they need denim that also stretches east and west for extreme comfort,” Baxter said.
Lee’s Modern Series, as well as Wrangler’s Comfort Solution Series, which have a flex fit and hidden elastic waistband which gives up to two extra inches, are a far cry from the rigid, authentic denim that rodeo stars of the 1940s donned, but cosmetically, they are similar.
Unlike the women’s category, where Baxter said stretch denim is building momentum because yoga apparel has become mainstream, he said men are responding positively to comfort features because the styling is on point with what they are accustomed to.
“One of the most important aspects with lines like Modern Series and even Heavenly Touch is that it still has the 5-pocket functionality and the appearance of jeans, but with the comfort and styling of something that is very active and you can move around in,” Baxter said, adding that it’s a theme that’s here to stay. “In jeanswear, how to make more active and comfortable jeans that fit well, and that after a period of time will continue to look and fit well, will be components that denim makers will have to grapple with for years to come. Denim brands should think the future is comfort.”