Are we what we wear? Nah. Not in the present tense, at least. They might reflect who we want to be, tell the stories we’re not quite willing to, but at the bottom line, we are who we are. Point blank. Jeans are a different animal, though, they tell a great deal about who we were. Consider them a series of bench marks, a marker similar to the photo album perched between War and Peace and Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In on your book shelf that possibly retains the memories you didn’t care to remember yourself. Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re tragic, often they don’t make it past the five year mark but fundamentally and definitively they are always an iteration of you. So what does that say, right?
Picture, for a moment, your year-2000-self. You danced to “Toxic.” You watched The O.C. You were 99% angel and layered your polos. You lived for the sound of your crush signing online. Your jeans, meanwhile, hung aggressively low, but so long as you weren’t getting detention, you didn’t care. The part below your knee flared out just enough so that it could hang down over your Rainbows and onto the ground, and you naively assumed this style would never fade out…
“There’s no way,” you said to yourself. “No way I’m trying jeans that suction-cup to my ankles. My legs will look fat, guaranteed.” For years your calves had room to breathe, until suddenly, the trend bended skinny.
But then the skinny jeans grew on you. You bought a pair from Old Navy as your starter pack. They looked “cute” with sweatshirts, and flats, and party tops, and flip flops. They made you look a little more polished. From there the addiction grew — All pants must appear painted! — and before you knew it you relied on old faithful like a crutch.
College skinny jean transitioned into post-graduate cool with a color change (black) and fabric (waxed), and for the Francophiles, a lower waistband. Emmanuelle Alt was the immediate inspiration. You wore them to creative job interviews, dates and to “go out.”
These jeans lived, however, during the birth of the “boyfriend,” and for the first time in a long time two denim silhouettes shared your closet’s spotlight. Both styles were leg tested, editor approved and looked good with your one-paycheck-per-foot pumps.
Those boyfriend jeans were like a gateway drug. You started craving nonconformity and refused to be boxed in. No longer were jeans about looking sexy for you. Instead, they became a game of sartorial birth control. Why cover up one private part when — with the clasp of a shoulder strap — you could cover them all? Perhaps you also read a certain book.
…But everyone knows that if you give a mouse a pair of overalls, she’s going to want to go to Glastonbury, which will remind her of that one time at Coachella. It was there in the California desert that you had your epiphany: nothing says music festival and youth like high waisted cut offs with fringe at the thighs.
You later learned that cut offs more-than-proved their worth in urban areas, too, where transportation does not include shoulder riding. Instead of a crop top, you wore a striped shirt, and instead of combat boots: a pair of flats. Your Alexa Chung phase commenced, and it’s possible you never looked back.
…Though chances are, you gave in to normcore. The shorts above were just the beginning of your ’80s resurgence: super high waisted mom jeans proudly declared that you gave zero fucks about your ass, and also, perhaps, that you were a victim of childhood wedgies. But they also opened you into a world of Saint Laurent’s practically-sprayed-on take of the the aforementioned college skinny.
And then, the 90s-redux set in. Your jeans looked incomplete without a little bit of grunge. You retained that post-Abercrombie complex bestowed upon you via your parents (“You could buy the same pair of jeans for 20 bucks, you know. Try doing a little yard work — it’ll rip your jeans for free.”) and yet you boldly maintained that you were in your artist phase. For about three months, you wore a plaid shirt around your waist like it was a fanny pack and you? A Disneyland dad.
…But then it hit: the 70s. As a short girl eternally in search of a longer leg, you got down on your knees and thanked the platform gods. (Then you re-watched That 70s Show and secretly compared your butt to Kelso’s.)
Or, for those born tall/anyone in-the-know at all, denim’s pièce de résistance currently resides in the form of a sartorial portmanteau (shout out to the style of Marcia Brady) whereupon the jeans are not only flared, but also cropped. The waist, high. The morale, higher; and you at your current stage-of-life, debating whether or not you’ll try out that whole Brooke Shields thing come spring while you silently pray the boot cut of year 2000 — still hanging between Lady Cropped and The Editor — has a fashion-adapted comeback. If only for the thrill of the memory.
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