Want to know what your jeans say about you? Only good things, I promise. Oh, and can we all collectively agree: jeggings don’t count.
Next time you’re in a public place, count the number of people wearing jeans.
Wherever you are in the world, around half the population will be rocking the true blues at any time. Now fast forward fifty years. Will half of us still have our legs encased in denim?
Maybe not. Because jeans might be over.
It seems hard to believe, but evidence is mounting that the unifying power of denim is dying. Jeans started as the garment of America’s West; the practical trousers of cowboys and miners; the daring statement of holidaying east coasters down on the ranch.
By the 90s, however, they were wallpaper. So ubiquitous that they became part of life’s scenery. Like a can of Coca-Cola, they were a unifying symbol: whoever you were, you wore the same thing (except, of course, if you were in Calvins — that was elite gold Coca-Cola).
But society has a stifling effect on subcultures. One particularly damning way of numbing the threat of alternate lifestyles is by subsuming them, making their otherness common. Where Levi’s were once overtly casual, calling to mind manual work and dusty landscapes, jeans are now so thoroughly sanitized that we can wear them to work — drawing the line, really, only at weddings and funerals. Like leather jackets and bandanas, the frisson of danger jeans once provided has now faded.
Don’t believe me? Look at the numbers. For the first time sales of jeans in the U.S. (the land of the free and the denim-clad) have fallen. And what has risen? Sales of yoga pants, by almost the same amount.
This tells us two interesting things about fashion and society. One, we constantly push the boundaries of what is acceptable to wear in public: jeans were workwear, yoga pants were designed for the gym. Two, what constitutes cool has undergone a radical change over the past decade.
Where we once idolized badness, considered smoking, drinking and erring along criminal lines cool, we now worship the smoothie, the six pack and the self-righteous selfie. Mark Zuckerberg had to go to a meeting in pajamas because turning up in jeans wouldn’t have meant anything.
I have faith, however, that jeans won’t die. Like the Goonies, great trends never do. They’re cyclical, and the more enduring they are, the harder they hold on. Jeans are the fabric of our lives. They weather stains and crotch rips and disastrous love affairs with more aplomb than Lululemons ever will. They certainly project more style.
But if, in fact, leggings become the norm — the new uniform of moms and dads and babies alike, and jeans die out among the masses, then won’t it be that much cooler to put on a pair of vintage 501s? The answer is yes. Fellow denim devotees: there’s no need to be worried.
Image shot by Tommy Ton for Style.com