Sales of the iconic blues fell 6 percent during the past year after decades of almost steady growth

Fashion watchers say the latest decline could be the longest. The “athleisure” trend is the biggest threat jeans have faced because it reflects a fundamental lifestyle change, said Amanda Hallay, assistant clinical professor of fashion merchandising at LIM College in Manhattan. “Everyone wants to look like they’re running to the gym, even if they’re not,” she said.

As a result of jeans’ waning popularity, retailers and designers are focusing more on activewear and less on denim. For instance, J.C. Penney recently has doubled its selections in casual athletic styles for the back-to-school season and scaled back growth of its denim business.

And designers are pushing new versions of jeans. Both Levi’s and VF Corp., the maker of Wrangler and Lee jeans, are rolling out jeans that they say are stretchier. And many brands are making so-called jogger pants, a loose-fitting sweatpant style that has elastic cuffs at the bottom of the leg.

“If casualization is what everyone is looking for, we can push the innovation,” said James Curleigh, president of the Levi’s brand.

It’s too early to tell whether the new styles will help jeans regain popularity. Jennifer Romanello, for one, said she’s not interested in them.

“If I want yoga pants, I will buy yoga pants,” said the publishing executive from Rockville Centre, New York. “I just don’t see jeans crossing the line to be yoga pants.”

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