When Hailey Bieber wore a pair of $95 grey low-rise parachute pants to Coachella last year and posted her fit to Instagram, those pants — made by UK-based Jaded London — instantly sold out.
Seeing the overnight success of the baggy Y2K style, Grant and Jade Goulden, the brother-sister duo behind the brand, quickly capitalised on the opportunity: they hopped on a plane to visit their suppliers in Turkey, buying up tonnes of lightweight cotton to boost their offering of the trend from three SKUs last year to 33 today in different colourways, lengths and inseams.
“The product went completely viral — I even had a request to go to Kylie Jenner’s house in LA to drop off a pair,” said Grant Goulden.
Since then, Jaded London has generated £8.3 million ($10.3 million) in sales from parachute pants alone and projects record sales of £43 million ($53.4 million) for its fiscal year ending July 2023.
As the Gouldens experienced first-hand, consumer interest in cargo pants and parachute pants — loose trousers with pockets inspired by old-school military gear — exploded in the past year.
Sales of parachute pants were up 181 percent in 2022 year-over-year, according to retail intelligence firm Edited, and the trend has only grown stronger in recent months.
London-based designer Natasha Zinko said her namesake brand’s wide-legged cotton and silk-blend cargo pants — which retail between £400 to £720 — now represent 48 percent of her business’ overall trouser sales, compared to 21 percent last year.
As part of the enduring Y2K resurgence, parachute pants are particularly popular among Gen-Z consumers, and #parachutepants has amassed 380 million views on TikTok to date.
Celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Emily Ratajkowski and Rosalía caused buying frenzies for luxury options such as The Attico’s $1,000 cargo pants, while fast fashion and contemporary brands were quick to market cheaper options. Shein’s $11 high-waisted cargo pants, for instance, are the number one trending item on its website, while three other variations are featured in the top ten.
“For womenswear, The Attico is one of the noticeable hero brands,” said Tiffany Hsu, Mytheresa’s vice president of womenswear buying. “Their pants sell out instantly as soon as we put them online.”
At Browns, The Attico’s lightweight polyester parachute pants are also a top seller, along with similar styles made by Dion Lee and The Frankie Shop, according to Heather Gramston, senior head of buying.
For now, parachute pants are largely favoured in womenswear but brands and retailers have an opportunity to market the style in menswear too. Jaded London, for example, took inspiration in designing their men’s parachute pants based on looks worn by David Beckham and Brad Pitt in the early aughts.
“Baggy style is one of the strongest men’s fashion trends for the coming summer season,” said Chris Kyvetos, leader of the men’s buying team at Mytheresa, citing Tom Ford and Bruno Cucinelli as brands which successfully adapted their existing offering to present the silhouette “in a more casual way.”
The key appeal for the parachute pant, buyers say, is its versatility in styling.
The trousers, typically lightweight and made for comfort from materials like nylon or polyester, can be worn high or low on the waist and paired with chunky sneakers and hoodies. The pants can also be styled in preppier outfits, with shoes like Adidas Sambas and Gazelles, and vest tops or cardigans. With multiple pockets, drawstrings and zips, parachute pants easily complement today’s most popular outdoor brands like Salomon and streetwear names like Stone Island or CP Company.
The parachute pants craze has also led to some unlikely players looking to cash in on the buzz, none more so than Icelandic outerwear label 66 North, a near century-old brand with origins in making protective clothing for arctic fishermen.
The brand — in the midst of a fashion push — tapped emerging menswear designer Charlie Constantinou for a long-term collaboration while he was still a student at Central Saint Martins this year. Their first collection, which dropped last week, featured Constantinou’s trademark hand-dyed cargo pants in purple and dark green. It’s promoted by a futuristic campaign shot against the rugged Icelandic terrain.
Under the partnership, 66 North gave Constantinou free reign to adapt its archival performance-focussed cargo pants with a fashion spin, resulting in a style with wide legs, additional exterior pockets and extra zips and drawstrings.
For Constantinou, the best parachute pants combine a technical look and feel with a sense of comfort — the most important attribute for post-pandemic apparel.
“Some people think it’s a matter of slapping on as many pockets as you can, and that makes it functional,” he said. “[But] it’s about refining the design to focus on ease of movement.”