I am a millennial who partakes in all three of these Gen Z faux-pas. But, I'm also a fashion editor who saw the skinny jeans condemnation coming. Skinny jeans have largely been absent on the runways, which have been featuring baggy jeans for seasons now. Celebrities like Bella Hadid, Hailey Bieber, and Sofia Richie have been exclusively wearing baggy-fit jeans for a while, too. I myself have declared the skinny denim trend over
in public on the internet — all while continuing to wear my go-to pair of skinnies on the side. Now that they’ve officially been relegated to “mom jeans” status, I don’t feel any sting.
I know that trends are cyclical, and it was only a matter of time before the belly button-covering loose-legged jeans — previously only worn by moms in the late '80s/early '90s — came back around. Conservative, unimaginative, and asexual, these "mom jeans" (the irony!) were the sartorial antithesis of everything that we saw in '00s celebrity culture.
As such, we opted for excess during that era: blinged-out bootcut jeans with crystals covering the entire pocket, jeans with butt signage as flashy as billboards, flared denim underneath skirts and dresses, and — the most extreme of them all — ultra-low-rise jeans that made it impossible to sit down without pulling up your pants at the same time. (Anyone who lived during this era knows the shimmy move I’m talking about.)
Like everyone else, I let my G-string show. Deep down though, as an adolescent surrounded by flat stomachs that I absolutely did not have, I was desperately uncomfortable — self-conscious that my love handles were out and that my hips lacked pointy bones I saw in music videos and on TV. As if to add to the insult, the jeans often featured long hemlines that were made with supermodel legs in mind. My jeans dragged on the floor, getting more ripped and dirt-stained with each wear. Yet when my mother once offered to shorten a pair so the hemlines wouldn’t get destroyed with every Converse-clad step I took, I was horrified that she would even suggest such a “mom” thing. Now, I’m horrified at the amount of dirt I tracked back home; if I was my mother, I would have made me take off the jeans at the door.
All this is to say that, when skinny jeans first came around in the mid-‘00s, they were a revelation. They accentuated the butt without exposing it. Suddenly hemlines could remain clean and unchewed, and show off our boots rather than be destroyed by them. And while some — notably, moms — were scandalized by how tight skinny jeans were, I was just thrilled about not having my buttcrack out and my midsection on display. Nevertheless, it wasn’t an instantaneous fit: For one, it took me, a straight-size shopper that has no shortage of options, a few tries to find a pair that both fit my larger hips and smaller waist. I stopped wearing high-tops after being unable to overcome how monstrously clown-like my feet looked in them without a bootcut hem to cover the shoes. Still, in my eyes, they were a huge upgrade from the jeans I had been wearing.
Years later, I briefly dabbled with the “boyfriend” jean trend, the loose-fitting, straight-legged pants with cuffs, that started the skinny jean trend’s descent. Unlike many of my peers, who are now likely feeling smug about moving on early, I continued sporting skinny jeans. While boyfriend jeans were soft, comfortable, and allowed plenty of movement, they just never worked with my style. Instead, I upgraded to the even higher-waisted slim jeans, which I have been wearing ever since.
That said, like many, I haven’t really worn any form of real pants for the last year. With most time spent at home, I wear sweatpants or workout leggings; whenever I go outside, I pull out dresses, skirts, or loose leather pants — formerly “special occasion” article of clothes that I now wear on weekend walks. Skinny jeans are the last thing I would think to reach for today.
Which brings me back to TikTok. Following last week’s declaration that I am old and uncool, I thought about whether baggy jeans are my way of transitioning from sweats back to hard pants once the pandemic's grip has loosened. But after a year apart from my skinny jeans, I can more clearly see the less savory parts of the style: That they make my socks slide off every time I take them off. Or how, after some long nights out, I have to ask my partner to pull them off of me as I lay on the couch, too exhausted to peel them off myself. Or how I still occasionally find myself unable to fit my hips into my supposed size of certain brands. “Weird” — a word that some on TikTok used to describe the style — isn’t the right word or reason for why I feel ready to abandon my skinnies. It’s more that there is, in fact, something deeply “uncool” about wearing clothes that work against me — especially after a year of only wearing clothes that serve me, that provide me with comfort.
So are the old mom jeans cool again? Yeah, no doubt about it. Are skinny jeans the new mom jeans? Sure. Is it time to retire the trend for good then? If I ever decide to wear jeans again — I am having a lot of doubts right now!! — maybe I’ll think about it. (Also, I can’t believe I’ve forgotten, but: What shoes do you wear with baggy jeans? 😂) Or maybe I’ll just wait out the next 10 years. After all, if the whale tail made a comeback in 2020, anything is possible.