Why I’m Never Letting Go of Skinny Jeans (No Matter What Gen Z Says)
Did I see this coming? Yes. Do I accept it? No.
It's always been a battle of the generations when it comes to the game of fashion (or anything really). Recently, teenagers on TikTok decided to drive a nail into skinny jeans' proverbial coffin. That's right—as you may or may not have heard, Gen Z has collectively decided to cancel skinny jeans, calling for everyone to toss their pairs lest we appear lame. Or worse, old.
Instead, straight-leg, bootcuts, and flare jeans are back, aka the sort of denim that was popular in the '90s when Gen Z were infants being babysat by millennials.
As someone born on the cusp of millennial and Gen Z, I don't know what to feel about the latest development in the absolutely pointless intergenerational war. My birthday falls right in between the two battling groups, meaning I have absolutely no idea which side I'm obligated to support—or identify with. But I've always been the person to wear whatever makes me happy, and I'll continue to stand by that. So, not that anyone asked, but here's where I stand on the debate (and I'm sure a lot of you agree).
You can pry skinny jeans from my cold, dead hands.
As a style editor and skinny jeans-loving millennial/Gen Zer, I see some major flaws in Z's mission to overthrow the fit. I get that fashion is cyclical and trends come and go in some way or another, but I don't see skinny jeans as a trend—I see it as the only solution for vertically challenged folks.
We have to acknowledge that millennials didn't always wear skinny jeans either. Standing at barely 5 foot 2, I cringe when reflecting on my denim history. I've always been significantly shorter than the rest of my peers, and the denim gods did not help us get through our most awkward years. I began middle school with flare jeans that pooled at my feet that my mom ordered from Abercrombie & Fitch's behemoth of a lineup.
Even jeans marked as "short" or "petite" weren't very short and petite on me. The midriff-baring, low-rise, wide-leg jeans phase popularized by millennials were a no-go on my stubby legs. I'd walk around the hallways lugging my excess pant bottoms like the burden they were, and by the time I got back home, the ends were painted black from the dirt and debris they picked up.
In other words, I could only wear my jeans once before having to toss them in the washer—which is against all the rules for laundering denim. It was a lose-lose dilemma: wash jeans after every wear (costly) or pay out of pocket to hem the legs to match my short ones (again, costly). I still vividly remember the tailor chuckling at how much fabric she had to take off.
Skinny jeans as we know them were finally introduced to the mass market in 2005 after featuring in the Dior Homme autumn/winter collection. I never thought I would like anything so slim and narrow, but I tried on my first pair and immediately fell in love. Even if they were still too long for me, nobody would be the wiser because I could scrunch them up at the ankles or fold them a couple notches. The tight fit presented me with ease of movement, and miraculously added two (sorely needed) inches of leg.
Not long after that, I discovered boots! Wedges! I could wear them because I could see them! Whereas baggier jeans and bootcuts would just hide my shoes, I could now wear any kind of shoe my sartorial heart desired, including my favorite toe pumps and knee-highs. For the first time, my skinny jeans made me enjoy wearing pants.
And although it took us a while to get there (I'm looking at you, jeggings), skinny jeans evolved, matured, and eventually became a closet staple. Skinny jeans introduced laced hems, intricate back-pocket detailing, and elastic stretch, and made high-waisted cool again. Skinny jeans singlehandedly flung the denim doors wide open to endless possibilities; they walked so loose-fitting jeans could run.
All this to say: I am a survivor of the low-rise bootcut era, and I don't have any intentions of going back. I understand the appeal of baggy jeans, especially in the age of COVID when loungewear and athflow reign supreme. (FYI, I'm not wearing skinny jeans around my house while working from home, either.) But I also think that women's fashion is far too criticized, and if you find a style of pant (skinny or not) that works for your body type, you should wear it loud and proud—no matter how many young, judgmental TikTokers you have to walk past on the way.
Isn't body image hard enough without having to mold yourself into fits that don't fit you?
To end things on a good note, the skinny jean may be more resilient than Gen Z thinks. Just a month ago, Levi's chief executive, Chip Bergh, told investors he did not "think skinny jeans are ever going away on the women's side of the business," despite a clear trend towards "casual, looser-fitting clothes in general." Emma McClendon, the author of Denim: Fashion's Frontier, also agrees, recently telling The Guardian that "[Skinny jeans] always have a way of bouncing back. They are an extremely versatile and adaptable garment that carry such a multitude of cultural meanings that they will never be irrelevant."
So here's to you, Gen Z. Skinny jeans are a fashion relic I'd like to keep forever, thank you very much. And if you suddenly decide that high-waisted jeans are no longer cool either, we're going to have some words.