In Defense of Skinny Jeans

Frame Denim Le High Skinny Patchwork Noir Multi Jeans
Photo: frame-store.com

The subject line in Vanessa Friedman’s “Open Thread” letter on Friday, January 29th, was “Let’s Talk About Skinny Jeans,” and accompanied by a photo showing models in skinny jeans and towering platforms. (Let’s talk about the ugly shoes, by the way, lol). Vanessa chose to weigh in on the subject after reading Levi chief executive Chip Bergh’s assessment that skinny jeans will never disappear, even though his newly introduced baggy cut and unisex sweats are doing well.

Levi Baggy Jeans
Photo: msn.com

Ms. Friedman opines that like high heels, we don’t need skinny jeans now because we are all stuck at home, not going to offices, bars, or parties. She likens the debate about skinny jeans’ relevance to the debate over high heels explaining that they are both about “perceived notions of femininity and sexiness.” Vanessa ended the article by inviting her readers to tell her if they believed this was the end of skinny jeans. Why do baggy jeans have to replace skinny jeans? I don’t see one as a substitute for the other. Why can’t we have both? I wanted to weigh in (pardon the pun).

“There are few things as easy to style (or handy to have) as a pair of skinny black jeans – Saint Laurent’s version looks just as cool with a bomber jacket and T-shirt as it does with a chunky sweater.” – NET-A-PORTER.

J Brand Alana cropped high-rise skinny jeans
Photo: .netaporter.com

I don’t see a correlation between skinny jeans and high heels. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. High heels are perceived as “fancy”, hard to walk in, and often uncomfortable, so they are naturally reserved for special occasions. On the other hand, skinny jeans, like all jeans, are versatile, everyday basics. They don’t have to symbolize femininity and sexiness. Instead of a high heel, wear brogues, menswear oxfords, ballet flats, flat boots, or sneakers.

Saint Laurent high-rise skinny jeans
Photo: netaporter.com

As NET-A-PORTER noted in the description of their Saint Laurent black stretch denim high waist jeans: “There are few things as easy to style (or handy to have) as a pair of skinny black jeans – Saint Laurent’s version looks just as cool with a bomber jacket and T-shirt as it does with a chunky sweater.”

Frame Denim Le High Skinny Off White in sateen with Frame’s patchwork shearling jacket
Photo: frame-store.com

Skinny jeans also look great worn beneath a statement shearling or fur, a well-cut cloth coat or trench, or an oversized blazer.

Frame Denim High Skinny Noir
Photo: frame-store.com

Worn with a simple black t-shirt, turtleneck, or blouse, you have the informal equivalent of a “Little Black Dress”.

J Brand Alana cropped high-rise skinny jeans
Photo: netaporter.com

Skinny jeans are clearly not suited for everyone. But on the right person and worn the right way, they can look pretty swell. I am fortunately very thin, have no hips, and a somewhat boyish figure and skinny jeans (in black and white and dark wash) serve as a year-round wardrobe workhorse. Made with enough stretch, they are comfortable enough to substitute for leggings, sweatpants, and joggers.

Kamala Harris wears skinny jeans, all-white sneakers, and blazer
Photo: footwearnews.com

Vice President Kamala Harris is an average-sized woman. Skinny (or narrow) jeans suit her well. She made them an off duty signature, paired with Converse sneakers. Whether or not you believe that image should have been put on the cover of Vogue is another story.

J Brand Leenah high-rise skinny jeans
Photo: netaporter.com

One of the things that drive me crazy about fashion is that many people make broad generalities about specific categories, and then rush to claim something is passé and over. That is so ridiculous. Nothing is ever “kaput.”

J Brand 835 cropped mid-rise skinny jeans
Photo: netaporter.com

Fashion is all about proportion and personal interpretation. In the right hands, anything can work, as we have seen time and time again. It’s all a matter of who wears it, how it is worn, and where it is worn. The trend toward baggy jeans is an obvious reaction to a universal desire to be comfortable at a time when there are so much discomfort and angst. And then there’s the issue of weight.

Unsurprisingly, at the beginning of the pandemic, it was reported that there were only three things flying off the shelves: mayo, barbecue sauce, and sweatpants. Indeed, many of us have put on some pounds. Hence, the need for elastic waists and baggy pants. But, maybe you didn’t and are proud of your toned body. Or maybe you just prefer to feel your body beneath the clothes. In that case, skinny jeans are for you.

Marilyn Kirschner
Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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