The unflattering fashion trend that simply REFUSES to die.

Kate Moss: patron saint of the skinny jean.




In the history of fashion, has there been any trend with longevity to rival the skinny jean? This leg-hugging style – favoured by off-duty models, rock stars, hipsters, you name it – has simply refused to die.

But I think it’s time skinny jeans stepped down from the podium for a while.

The modern incarnation of the skinny jean began its World Domination Tour in 2004/2005 – yes, THAT long ago. In the ensuing years countless trends have come and gone and yet this design has retained its stranglehold (quite literally) on legs worldwide. Even more incredibly, men and women have both embraced it with equal fervour.

So how is it that one style of pant, which seems to have as many detractors as it does supporters, could stick around for almost a decade – especially considering the notoriously fickle nature of fashion?

Let’s examine the evidence in favour of skinnies:

1. Celebrity status. Kate Moss, Alexa Chung, Russell Brand … the list of celebrities known to regularly rock the skinny jean – and look gorgeous – is endless.

2. They can look really, really, really cool. Skinny jeans look great teamed with a lot of the current fashions – peplums, buttoned shirts, ankle boots. And I don’t know about you but I love skinny jeans and Converse sneakers on men.

Russell Brand in his trademark skinny jeans.

3. They’re surprisingly versatile. A nice pair of dark skinnies can pass as office wear. The same can’t be said for many other styles.


4. They’re “democratic”. The Guardian recently documented the staying power of the skinny jean, arguing its appeal lies primarily in its “democratic” design:

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.

Here’s where I disagree. For many shoppers, the ubiquitous ‘skinny’ cut simply doesn’t suit or doesn’t even physically fit. Many others don’t like the look, or prefer to emphasise a part of their body that isn’t their legs. And yet there are virtually no alternatives available.

Personally, my relationship with skinny jeans has been an unrequited love affair of Eponine and Marius proportions (Les Miserables reference for those who haven’t made it to a cinema yet this year). No matter how adoringly I stare at them, they’re determined to play hard to get (cue me sobbing and singing ‘On My Own’ in a rainy alleyway).

Evidently skinny jeans are just incompatible with my body shape – it’s near impossible to find a pair that will pull up further than my mid-calf; that doesn’t dig into the back of my knees; or that doesn’t gape at the back. The rare styles that actually fit tend to contain such a high percentage of elastic that they completely stretch out at the waist within three wears. Or they tear as soon as I do something strenuous like, oh, you know, extend my leg.

What we need is a true denim democracy catering for various shapes, sizes and preferences.

The problem is, the super skinny trend has had such a huge domino (or is that denimo? Badoom ching!) effect that other designs, which may be more forgiving or flattering for various body types, seldom reach the shelves. When they do, they don’t stay for long – remember the short-lived ‘boyfriend jean’? That’s because the fashion status of the skinny leg is so engrained that to wear any other style is simply not seen as ‘cool’.


Basically, the reign of skinny jeans is not a democracy. It’s a totalitarian regime, wherein a large portion of the population is resigned to stumbling around in change rooms, attempting to squeeze into denim sausage skins, only to leave the store empty-handed and disheartened.

What we need is a true denim democracy that gives a voice to different body shapes, heights, sizes and personal tastes. Because, amazingly enough, the world is not one-size-fits-all. For every person who feels great in skinny jeans, there’s someone who prefers a straight leg, or perhaps a full-blown ’70s bell bottom.

And yet the lack of options available today is astounding, especially considering jeans, unlike kaftans or fluoro body-con dresses, are a universal wardrobe staple. They’re the go-to pant. For designers to continually manufacture one style at the exclusion of all others is just unfair.

As for you, skinny jeans, I’m not telling you guys to leave the party completely. I’ll still admire your slinky silhouette from afar, draped on clothing racks and wrapped around strangers’ legs (a statement which sounded far less creepy in my head). I’ll even continue the time-devouring quest for my own skinny Holy Grail.

But, seriously, it’s time to sit down and stop hogging the limelight for a while.

Are you a fan of the skinny jean, or do you wish it would hurry up and die? What style of jean do you wish was more readily available?