Hip huggers are tightly fitted pants whose waistline has been dropped below the natural waist of the wearer. Hip huggers usually have flared or bell-bottom legs, and the dropped waist can vary from hanging modestly just below the waist to a sitting several inches below the navel. Hip huggers often have no built-in waistband but are frequently worn with wide belts. First worn by the "mods," British fashion trendsetters of the 1960s, hip huggers were popular with both men and women throughout the 1970s. They have come back into fashion several times since, both as 1970s nostalgia and as new designer fashions in the early twenty-first century.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, hip huggers were widely worn by young people, from high school students to hippies, youth who rebelled against the norms of society. The so-called sexual revolution of the times called for a freer, looser style with regard to expressing one's sexuality, and sexy, revealing hip huggers fit in perfectly. While the first hip huggers exposed only the navel, more extreme designs were produced, which barely covered the wearer's bottom. Low-slung hip hugger pants exposed the bare midriff (the area below the breasts and above the waist) on both men and women. Rock stars, such as the Rolling Stones and 1970s husband and wife team Sonny (1935–1998) and Cher (1946–), popularized hip huggers by wearing them on stage.
While mods wore hip huggers in bold, geometric prints, and hippies wore them in ragged denim, the disco dancers of the late 1970s brought glitz to the hip hugger. Tight, low hip huggers in shiny fabrics, such as satin, and bright colors were seen on popular singers of the time, from Donna Summer (1948–) to Rod Stewart (1945–).
Hip huggers retained some degree of popularity after the 1970s but almost exclusively among young women. In the 1990s British fashion designer Alexander McQueen (c. 1969–) introduced ultra-lowcut hip huggers that were quickly dubbed "bum pants" because they exposed so much of the wearers' bums, the British slang for buttocks. The very low and tight hip huggers popularized by pop music singers such as Britney Spears (1981–) and Christina Aguilera (1980–) remained popular into the early twenty-first century. The year 2000 also saw the introduction of a kind of "false" hip hugger with a high waist and a wide belt set low on the hips, giving the illusion of the low cut, while covering more of the body.
Because hip huggers are so revealing they have sometimes been banned. Even the medical profession has had its reservations about them, with some doctors asserting that tight hip hugger pants cause a condition called paresthesia, or nerve damage in the wearer's thighs.
Herald, Jacqueline. Fashions of a Decade: The 1970s. Edited by Elane Feldman and Valerie Cumming. New York: Facts on File, 1992.