The (Purported) Death of the Skinny Jean

Post By Russell Christmas


I’ve been seeing a lot of talk recently in the fashion media that skinny and slim fits are totally gauche, and that looser, baggier fitting jeans are the only denim trousers that those who are in the know will wear with pride.

So is it time for ‘fashionable’ men to throw out their current jean wardrobe? The short answer? No. The longer answer? Nooooooooooooooooooooooo.

I don’t think its unreasonable to feel that wider jeans having a second coming after the the normalization of skinny and slim-fitting jeans (perhaps as a reaction against the slim jean becoming, for lack of a better term, basic). I also don’t think it is unreasonable to challenge this idea that straight-fit as our inevitable future.

Firstly, I think something needs to be said of negative aspects of the contrarian practices of trend-setters. When slimmer fits became fashionable for men, the trend was in opposition to the associations that wider-legged pants had come to embody by the late 2000s. Some of the things we associate with baggy jeans are, from a progressive perspective, reasonable anathema: I don’t think its a stretch to suggest that hegemonic masculinities (and the misogynistic, homophobic, and toxic elements of them) became associated with baggier jeans, and that young progressives (aka hipsters) wore skinny jeans as a symbol of rebellion against these elements of male ideology. Simultaneously, there is also race and class connotations to baggy jeans that problematize the idea that the shift to skinny jeans that ‘liberal-types’ initiated was totally progressive; straight-fit jeans such as Wranglers were (and still are) a symbol of the working class people, and saggy, extremely baggy styles of jeans from brands like JNCO and Girbaud became widely associated with under-privileged black youths. While the motivation behind men switching to slimmer styles of pants can be tied to more progressive forms of masculine coding, it can also be tied to racist and classist ideologies that the fashion industry as a whole is still criticized for holding. Similarly, now that slim pants have become ubiquitous even among crowds that fashionable cliques deem unfashionable (aka lower class people), I think that the return to wider fits carries with it elitist connotations (“we must change our style of dress so that we don’t look like them”). Equating clothing trends with any sort of uncomplicated conception of inevitable progress ignores the fact that style carries with it intersectional connotations.

People should realize that you don’t need to be on-trend to be well-dressed. In fact, trying to be on-trend in regards to every new novelty and craze make you a fashion victim; if your personal sense of style makes you feel ridiculous in straight-fit jeans, wearing them to be “cool” and fashionable makes you anything but.

So wear what jeans you like and feel comfortable in. As a guy who’s only 5’9″, most loose pants make my body look stout and short: I personally plan on avoiding them like the plague. But despite all this planning, I also recognize how silly it is to try to predict and plan ahead for oncoming trends. Just because some trends show up in a couple of seasons and becomes hyped by the fashion world does not mean its necessarily vital or permanent. 5-10 years from now, a contemporary straight-fit jeans may be as popular as they were in the early 2000s. Just the same, we may all be laughing at photos of that brief moment in our early 20s when hipsters wore high-end Wrangler and JNCO knock-offs for a couple years.

Adopt straight-fit jeans if you like them (the more conservative takes on this style look great in my opinion, though I personally think looser styles are more flattering with different fabrics).  Don’t feel pressured to ceremoniously burn your entire jean collection because some out-of-touch fashion writer told you to do it.


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