Forget Hemlines. Mom Jeans Are Now An Economic Indicator.


There was once something called the Hemline Index introduced by economist George Taylor in 1926. The idea was that the hemline of women’s skirts signed where the economy and/or the stock market were headed. Short skirts meant good times; a falling economy was signaled by longer hemlines. 

Marjolein van Baardwijk and Philip Hans Franses explored what they refer to as an urban legend in a 2010 paper, “The Hemline and the Economy: Is There Any Match?” The two authors collected hemline data from 1921 to 2009, matching hemlines with National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) business cycle data. 

Given that fashion creation and popularity take time, the authors applied a lag and came to the conclusion in their short paper: “Supporting the urban legend, we find that poor economic times make the hemlines to decrease, which means that women’s dresses get lower and that prosperity is correlated with a reduced hemline (more miniskirts). At the same time, and this is new to the available evidence, we find that there is a time lag of around three years.” 

They pronounced, “This explains why at present [2010], in an economic downturn, the skirts are short, as this is simply due to the fact that the economy was in a boom about three years ago (2007–2008).”

Others, Robert Prechter, Paul Montgomery, and Ralph Rotnem, have used Taylor’s theory in predicting stock market movements. 

The disconnect between the stock market and the economy has created a conundrum, is it hemlines or is it jeans style? Going into the covid crash, skinny jeans were all the rage; now, according to the Washington Post, “the fashionistas are going for ‘the mom’ and the flare”.

Of course, skinny jeans aren’t completely dead; for instance, songwriter Sarah Hester Ross recently wrote the lyrics, “You can pry these skinny jeans from my cold dead a**, ya hear?” Yes, fighting words in what Maura Judkis and Abha Bhattarai call “The Jean War.”

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