How Skinny Is Too Skinny?
How Skinny Is Too Skinny?

We’re only talking about your jeans, gentlemen   

Millennial men in their late teens and early 20s grew up with a rather intimate bond with skinny jeans. Not out of sentimentality, but for how tightly they hugged your crotch—a sensation perhaps most Indian men are unaware of in their formative years. Although, even when the denim rubbed you the wrong way in all the wrong places, you still wore them, because everyone was doing the same. However, in recent times skinny jeans have become something of a fashion faux pas, perhaps similar to dipping fries in a milkshake—tolerable, but not something you’d want to be seen doing in public.   


Guns N’ Roses.jpeg


But fashion, by its very nature, is cyclical. Evidence of this dates to the 13th century when hose, or tights, were incorporated into men's attire for both protection and warmth, tailored closely to the body for horse riding. In the mid-15th century, a law prohibited the wearing of short tunics that exposed the male buttocks among the upper class, prompting the adoption of tights or leggings beneath their rather scandalous tunics. This trend then resurfaced in the 17th century with the popularity of slim-cut trousers among the French Royals and was resurrected again by the likes of Elvis Presley in the 50s, along with James Dean and Marlon Brando in films like ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ and ’The Wild One,’ respectively.  


In the modern world, "Skinny jeans became a rage again when Hedi Slimane designed these ridiculously slim-fitting jeans for Dior Homme," says stylist Edward Lalrempuia, who also shared a rather interesting tidbit from the time, "Rumor has it, French boys starved themselves for days to fit in those. Even Karl Lagerfeld is said to have done the same."  




Which then begs the question, if those crotch-hugging pants keep getting resurrected every era or so, like an unwanted Star Wars movie, why do they go out of fashion in the first place? Stylist Divyak D’Souza points toward two things. First, "When it comes to denim and different fits of denim, it is extremely unwise to follow trends. Because we all have different body shapes, structures, and proportions." Following up, D’Souza also emphasizes the importance of structures and proportions when it comes to visual design, sharing, "If you have a particular body type—thin, lean, with a few bumps—then skinny jeans can be worn in various ways. Take Timothée Chalamet or Kate Moss, for instance. I believe they would look fantastic in skinny jeans if styled appropriately."   




It was this importance of body shape and structure that was ignored in the early 2000s when skinny jeans were becoming a thing. Yes, they looked good on punk musicians and rockstars, but not everyone has the charisma of David Bowie. What also didn’t help was their rather uncomfortable nature. As D’Souza remembers, “It was the 2000s and the poor styling of that era. It stopped being about comfort and style and became more about really tight-fitted uncomfortable jeans, where you couldn’t bend your knees or sit comfortably. Some of the high street offerings of skinny jeans are not the most comfortable or flattering, particularly for the Indian body type. Also, I do feel like with the way they were styled earlier—putting the focus on all the wrong curves of the body—it killed the look."  




Not to mention, skinny jeans became the poster child of flex culture in the pre-pandemic era, with every fashion influencer sporting the same silhouette of skinny jeans, paired with branded oversized tees or jackets, and a pair of high-top shoes—Jordans, of course. Post the pandemic, the needle slowly started to wear towards quieter, non-logo aesthetics, “the trend was moving towards relaxed fit, anti-fit. Skinny Jeans just became less happening,” says Lalrempuia. But as culture and counterculture always work, a quiet rebellion against the more tailored, or oversized bottom wear appears to be brewing, but maybe for a different set of audience. Take Demna’s Balenciaga AW24 collection for instance, which brought back skinny jeans with thigh-high boots, and oversized leather jackets, “which kind of gives it interesting proportions especially when it comes to your winter wear looks,” says D’Souza. Similarly, as he remembers, “Miu Miu has done something similar bringing back its iteration of skinny jeans with an ankle crop, and flat leather loafers.”  


Image via Dominique Charriau:Getty Images.jpeg
Image via Dominique Charriau/Getty Images


Does this mean, you ought to be on the lookout for them this year? If yes, can everyone wear them? As per D’Souza, it is really up to you, “I don’t think body type should restrict your choices. No matter your body type, if you’re feeling good in it, as cliché as it sounds, you end up looking good.” However, he does advise to take a note of few things, “there are a few aesthetic and comfort considerations I’d make based on body type. Skinny jeans and longer, leaner pants fit better for those with longer and leaner body types—thinner, more athletic, with fewer curves. If you have a straighter body type, skinny jeans look much better. There was a time when I wore skinny jeans in my youth and enjoyed them. Currently, I'm obsessed with high-waisted and flared jeans. I also dabbled in mom jeans at one point, and I've kept them in my closet because you never know what you might want to revisit. If skinny jeans have worked for you in the past and you want to wear them again, go for it. I don't think they suit my proportions, so I wouldn't wear them again," further adds D’Souza.   


When asked if skinny jeans should make a comeback, Lalrempuia’s response was similar, “I enjoyed skinny jeans while they lasted. I prefer the idea of more cigarette-tapered pants. Currently, I'm unsure if they should make a comeback. It's a no from me.” However, if you do want to look for one, Lalrempuia again points out the importance of proportions, “Having nice legs is a plus. If you have a heavy upper body and a skinny lower body, it's just disproportionate. But if you have a more proportionate body, then yes, they can be styled.”  




In the wider context of things though, the popularity of skinny jeans will always be dependent on how masculinity and femininity are viewed through the lens of the current culture. In the '60s and the '70s, Classic Rock legends embraced tighter pants, pushing the needle of androgynous clothing. The Backstreet Boys and N’Sync, who often dictated your fashion choices (you know it), made it kosher to wear them at the time—even if your legs looked like toothpicks. Then came the Kanye and Drake of the world who showed you that skinny jeans under oversized t-shirts were the uniform of hip-hop artists—even if you didn’t have the swagger to match. In the present day, however, —when quiet luxury is in, and bling is out; louche and fluid trumps body-hugging; and comfort is valued as much as style—do skinny jeans still warrant a place in your wardrobe? Unless you’re a Gym Bro (with a seriously fit body) or have serious cojones (not referring to them being stuffed under your pants), then it’s perhaps just about okay to squeeze your legs into tight denim. Or maybe wait for the next big K-Pop artist; David Beckham or Ryan Gosling to step out in a pair to give you the go-ahead.   

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