The Death of Skinny Jeans by Adam Hickey
Skinny Jeans are dead.
How often has this phrase been used in fashion blogs and magazines over the past few years? A
declaration by those ‘in the know’ who decide with a stroke of a pen when a fad is no longer
relevant in the world of fashion, no longer desirable amongst consumers, a commercial gimmick
which has outstayed its welcome.
Many times fashion gurus have issued statements declaring the end of trends and the arrival of
new ones. Each quarter new articles spring up listing the 10 most essential items needed for your
wardrobe this season, and what items should be discarded. We live in a world of five minute fad and
quick fashion, where nothing has a long shelf life.
Yet as we approach 2020, skinny jeans are still around and don’t seem to be going anywhere
anytime soon. What once was a trend to be mocked, a fad to be ridiculed, a topic which people
would roll their eyes over has endured in the public consciousness for well over a decade.
But why? Why are skinny jeans one of the most popular cuts of jeans on the market? Why have they
endured where other styles have faded into relative obscurity? Why are they still here when those in
the fashion world have declared them dead time and time again?
Their rise in popularity can be charted around the mid 2000s, when Kate Moss became the first
trend setter to wear them in the public eye at catwalks and fashion shows. Until that time, skinny
jeans as we know it were a niche fashion rarely found on the high street. They were a relic of the
80s alongside shoulder pads and parachute pants. Overnight, they had become the new fashion fad,
one which was not cosigned to a specific gender. Men were wearing them as well as women. High
street retailers were selling them in cuts for both sexes, beginning with Topshop and Topman,
evolving to Next until almost every fashion retailer has a skinny jean section in their denim
New manufacturers opened up like Cheap Monday and Monkee Genes, each one proclaiming to
sell the ‘skinniest fit jeans’ on the market. Even higher end jeans manufacturers like Levi’s, Nudie
and Saint Laurent were beginning to sell skinnier cuts or even alter their standard fits and crop them
to a less baggier silhouette.
They were mocked by Conan ‘O Brien and parodied by television shows like Family Guy. They
were criticised by health professionals, condemning them as the causes of varicose veins to low
fertility rates. They were criticised as much as they were praised. They were loved and they were
hated. They were, perhaps, the most polarising fashion trend of the mid 2000s.
Come the 2010s their popularity rose. What had been considered a “fad” by many had
transcended into something else entirely. Even when new subcultures were labelled, such as scene
kids and hipsters, the trend was not relegated to these groups. Everyone was wearing them, no
matter how they identified.
It was also not limited to the United Kingdom. It was a global phenomenon, stretching from the
United States to Japan, from Norway to Australia. Skinny jeans had become universal.
Though as the decade wore on, many fashion experts were quick to declare that the skinny jean
trend was dead. Having lasted well over half a decade, in this world of fast fashion, they had
outstayed their welcome. One of the most recent declarations came earlier this year from fashion
website Elle with an article headed ‘The Skinny Jean is Dead: The 5 Denim Styles You Need Now’.
It is one of several declarations, from GQ Magazine, Fashion Tag and even Mashable in an article
dating back to 2015!
Yet the general population does not seem to acknowledge this dogmatic declaration. People are
still wearing skinny jeans. That is not to say that skinny jeans are the sole garment dominating the
fashion trends. Other cuts of jeans have re-emerged into the spot light, from flared to dungarees and
each have simmered away into the background. Other clothing items, whether they be chinos, suit
trousers or the currently popular jogging bottoms, all offer a skinny cut to rival the popularity of the
Skinny jeans, though, have remained consistent. They have not disappeared back an oblique existence in the niche market. Instead, have retained their place in full prominence on the high street curtain rail. New online retailers, from Alexander Jeans to Carpe Omnia specialise in skinnier cuts of jeans and sales are still strong.
So going back to the original declaration that skinny jeans are dead, it could be argued that “the
skinny jean trend” is dead simply because it is no longer a trend. They have evolved into something
much more versatile. They have become the standard. An item hanging in everyones wardrobe.
They have become a staple garment. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the rumours of their death have
been greatly exaggerated.