The XX Factor

Skinny Jeans Are Finally on the Wane. (Hooray?)

Ten years of this!
Ten years of this!

Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker. Photo by JAYANNPO/Shutterstock.

Did you know that there’s an agency that takes a ruler to the pant legs of all the denim that struts down the catwalks in New York, London, Paris, and Milan, to forecast trends in width? According to Quartz, this is so. (The agency in question is called WGSN.) This year, the pant-width-measurers have spoken, and their message is as follows: The reign of the skinny jean is finally at an end.

This is far from the first such forecast to punctuate the skinny jean’s strangely prolonged dominance. Most pant styles get just a few seasons in the fashionable sun before they’re replaced, relegated to be worn while cleaning, or on those Sundays when you barely leave the house. But best estimates put the rise of the skinny cut around 2005, meaning the look has been going strong for a decade.

As long as skinny jeans have been popular, it’s been popular to complain about their unrealistic body messaging and possible side effects on circulation. But it seems they’ve outlived the allotted lifespan of a trend for the very simple reason that women actually like them. Bloomberg reported last year that retailers like Gap had thrown themselves into coming up with a new style, but “women kept right on buying their skinnies.” (To be fair, Gap’s best efforts apparently included “zippered sweats and capri track pants.”) As Jezebel’s Kara Brown observed, “The fashion industry is panicking. They very much depend on being able to sell women entirely new wardrobes like clockwork and at the moment, they’re having trouble prying those damn skinny jeans from our hands.”

Guardian writer Paula Cocozza has a theory about why that is in her magnum opus on the topic. “For all their bad press about being only for skinny people (admittedly, their name has not helped with this), skinny jeans are in fact benignly elastic and surprisingly democratic, stretching comfortably to include all shapes of bottom and all social groups,” she points out. Skinny jeans look good with most everything, from ballet pumps to boots, from a slouchy sweater to a sculpted blouse. We’ve been wearing them so long, Cocozza argues, that they’ve become “less a fashion choice than a default setting. … This is not usually how fashion works.”

But the usual order may be about to reassert itself. Last year’s Paris Fashion Week spawned trend pieces about the return of the 1990s-era straight-leg jean. This year’s shapes have ranged from slim to wide to very wide—but no skinny. Maybe it’s time to say bye bye, skinny jeans, see you on the next turn of the denim merry-go-round. I’ll be looking for you around 2045.