The Thought Process of Wearing High-Waist Jeans

From denial to acceptance

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There is nothing more enticing than the prospect of encasing my loin fruits in a suction cup of denim that fastens right below the ribcage. I pull the 11-inch zipper up slowly, relishing in the compact delight of two halves of this delicious Levi’s sandwich becoming one, circling my torso in a perfectly sized love lock. I look in the mirror. A hologram of Ryan Gosling dips a finger in the blood of my enemies and writes on the glass, “Hey girl, did you swap butts with a young Brooke Shields or are you just wearing your favorite high-waist jeans?”

I put on boots with a chunky heel and a suede trench coat and I am basically six feet tall. My legs look like two parallel infinity pools at a five-star resort in Tulum. As I walk out the door, I feel as though my lower half has assumed an entirely new identity. They say we only use 10% of our brains, but I think we also only use 10% of our pelvic swagger. I’m pretty sure cloaking yourself in stiff denim from toe to diaphragm is the key to unlocking the remaining 90%. You can quote me.

I arrive at the office. Someone (probably Yvonne, because she’s always staring at me) tells me I’m glowing and asks if I got a facial. I smile coyly and let my coat drop to the floor. A hush falls over the room as I make my way over to my desk, hips swaying gently within the confines of their sweet, sweet denim cocoon.

I sit down.


Ummmm no. No no no. My solar plexus has been sucker punched. My uterus has collapsed. The metal button that fastens the top of my jeans is digging into my Pillsbury Doughboy tummy, causing a balloon-like semicircle of flesh to appear in the space between my navel and freshly cleaved camel toe — right where young Brooke Shield’s lower abdomen used to reside! Where did that go?

I stand up. It’s back!!!

I sit down again. FUDGE.

I stare at the hefty bowl of oatmeal I made for breakfast and contemplate how I’m going to ingest its contents. There is no room for oatmeal inside these jeans. There is barely room for the human girl that is me.


I glance nervously around the office and when I’m positive no one is looking, I unzip my high-waist jeans. You know that feeling when you take a sip of red wine after a long day or get into a hot shower after a workout class or dip your hand into a deep bag of uncooked rice? Yeah, this is better than all those feelings combined.

I slouch down in my chair and eat my oatmeal. It’s the best oatmeal I’ve ever had, probably because my tastebuds are in cahoots with my guts and the freedom is contagious. How long can I get away with keeping my pants unzipped before human resources (hi Matt!!!) arrests me for indecent exposure? I check the Man Repeller Employee Handbook. It is shockingly unhelpful.

I enjoy my abdominal bacchanalia for another hour, at which point I need to go to the bathroom, which requires standing up and walking across the room. I could try to make a run for it (unzipped), but that seems risky. I bow my head and pinch my zipper.

When my sister was a toddler, my parents had to install a tent over her crib because she kept escaping. Every night, when they would zip up the tent, she would cry out, “Nooooooooo.” That’s exactly what my stomach does when I re-zipped my jeans.

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I’m in back-to-back meetings for the next couple of hours, which means more sitting and scarce opportunities for unzipping. My waistband, i.e. the Circle Of Doom, is digging into me so hard I think it’s going to leave a permanent indentation — great for catching cookie crumbs, terrible for everything else. When I finally return to my desk, I look at my chair and laugh, but instead of laughing I accidentally break out in hives (classic mixup). I cannot sit in these jeans anymore. I want to climb out of my skin. Instead I take my laptop and lie prostrate on the office couch, which may or may not be inappropriate considering this is a workplace and not my personal high-waist jeans recovery boudoir, but the night is dark and full of terrors and so is the prospect of remaining perpendicular for one more bleeping second.

I hog the couch for the remainder of the day, brooding in silence save for the occasional low, primal moan of regret.


I’ve never been more excited to go home and get undressed. As I turn my key in the lock, I can already picture myself lighting a few candles, lying in bed naked from the waist down and texting my roommate to please bring me a sleeve of saltines like I’m some kind of invalid. my fingers creep toward the zipper…I catch a glimpse of my lower half in my bedroom mirror and pause.

In the words of Carrie Bradshaw, I can’t help but wonder, is the inevitable discomfort of bathing your waist in denim concrete worth the addictive pleasure of feeling like your wardrobe and your birthday suit have never been better complemented?

I text some friends: “Wanna get drinks?”

These jeans deserve a few more hours of public merriment. Flattery will get you everywhere.

Photos by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.

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  • Lucie Evans

    This is just amazing. I recently wore my favourite ever jeans (yes high waisted) to a pizza place. Worst decision ever! The seats were benches too so I couldn’t even subtly lie back to ease the suffocation of my waist.

    • Harling Ross

      benches are the WORST for high waist jeans

      • Harling Ross

        that’s chapter 2 of my personal vendetta

  • Bee

    I’ve gotta say, Madewell’s high waisted jeans are great. Somehow, they don’t cause the sucker punch feeling when you sit down!

    • Willa Konefał Davis

      Wearing said jeans right now and agree 100%! They also make your stomach look completely flat even when sitting down.

      • Bee

        I’m wearing mine too and feeling great! 🙂

    • Harling Ross

      I’m wearing Madewell high waist jeans today too and I love them but!!! they are currently unzipped because there is no escape from the sucker punch for my high maintenance abdomen 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁

      • Bee

        Nooo, that makes me sad! No abdomens should be subjected to sucker punching.

      • Clara

        I have some Cheap Monday ones that are kind of stretchy at the waist and that helps a lot. They do have a different problem tough: the zipper does not stay up and you have to discretely check if you are exposing yourself every 5 minutes

    • pennyjenny

      Depends on the material… I really like the non-stretchy ones, but that is the pair that literally gives me heartburn. I have some stretchy pairs from Madewell too, though.

    • Meg S

      Excuse me while I rejoice because the inseam on Madewell’s high waist skinnies fall in the petite range and I might not have to get them tailored. Huzzah!

  • Id rather the Brooke Shields butt than the early 2000s butt-crack/muffin top any day. Ill even take the pain that is eating pizza in them

    • dietcokehead

      Some days I find myself wondering how I ever even wore mid-rise jeans, much less got through my high school/college years when low-rise was pretty much the only option available. Whuck? It was so awful. Talk about your jeans body-shaming you. God, I just had a mental flash of Christina Aguilera in ones so low-cut they didn’t even have a waistband and now I want to die.

  • Andrea Raymer

    Me on Wednesday. I watched an entire broadway show with my pants unzipped. Its a good think Mark Ruffalo couldn’t see me from the stage. This is why the rest of my jeans are stretchy,

    • maiadeccan

      HOW WAS THE PRICE??? i don’t have tix until may and I CANNOT W8

      • Andrea Raymer

        It was great! I am obsessed with the set and lighting! Also the pink suit she wears!

        I also sell merch there, so it was free.

  • Mila

    Soft jazz/instrumental saxophone was playing in my head while I was reading the “denial” part!

    • Harling Ross


  • Isabel S
    • Harling Ross

      this gif never gets old

      • Isabel Sanoja

        old, but gold

  • Haley Fox

    I want to frame this article because it is 200% accurate and also so well written. I may have giggled in my cubicle.

    • Harling Ross

      i want to frame this comment

  • I love the way I look in high-waist jeans, but always get indigestion from the way they cut into my tummy when I’m sitting after I eat. It’s the worst kind of love-hate relationship :'(

  • Damn, Harling your writing is on fire this week!!!

    PS. Just ingested a bagel at my desk and I feel your pain :l

  • Holly Laine Mascaro

    This is amazing

  • Merrynell

    There is such a thing as ill-fitting high-waist jeans though! Love a good wedgie fit but if it does not pass the sit-down test, then I’m not interested.

  • Berty

    Please reconsider your use of the word “invalid”

  • I’ve come to terms with the abdomen-squishing effects of the high-waist silhouette but have recently become vehemently intolerant of the often simultaneous thigh-squishing, and thus have been wearing exclusively high-waisted, wide-legged culotte styles a la Jesse Kamm sailor pant. And by exclusively I mean I have been wearing the same pair of jeans every day for a month and my friends are becoming concerned.

    • Harling Ross

      I’m very much same page. High waist + thigh space is the holy grail of pant silhouettes

      • Tiffany

        I realize that this is an old post, but please please please Harling, can you search for cool / loose-fitting / non-skinny, mid-high waisted jeans with stretch only around the waist area….that will fit my smaller waist but also my big butt and thighs without making them look dumpy or mom-ish? I have never had a pair of jeans that truly fit other than stretchy skinny ones that aren’t very jeans-y. The loose, cool, ripped, vintage looking ones are way too big in the waist, too tight in the thighs, and make my butt look dumpy rather than large and perky. Haayyyulp

        • Rosemary

          girl SAME

  • LEM

    I struggle with high waisted jeans because they are either THAT tight, or I look pregnant. And then I sit down and look like I have some sort of giant male appendage. I just can’t win.

  • This brought me such joy. Thank you.

  • Becca

    This is such a great article- I truly cannot stop laughing, which is proving challenging in my high-waisted jeans.

  • pennyjenny

    Legit have almost had panic attacks sitting down at a restaurant wearing tight nonstretchy high-rise jeans. Wearing a pair of non-stretchy high-rise Levi’s today, but this pair is vintage and two sizes too big, so these are actually comfy.

  • Hellbetty666

    I love this!! I love high waisted trousers, jeans and shorts, low rise is the bane of my life.

    they can also give you a camel toe, but that’s either a small price to pay or a bonus, depending on your point of view.

  • Haley Nahman

    “I look at my chair and laugh, but instead of laughing I accidentally break out in hives (classic mixup)”


  • Emily Ziller

    My friend and I coined the phrase “standing jeans” and this entire story is dedicated to them. Basically any pants that are meant to make you look/ feel awesome on nights out dancing and bar hopping — not so much for date night out to eat

    • Harling Ross

      HAH yes

  • Engels_Beard

    I’m so long-waisted that the 11-inch high rise jeans are basically midrise jeans on me. I’d kill to get my hands on an affordable pair of 13-inch ones. Anybody know of such a thing?

  • that’s always my issue- getting thick material vintage cut jeans that suck my stomach in and look like a dream or the stretchy fabric that is the imitation of the original but can be worn in situations where sitting is required!

  • Rosie

    This is my *exact* internal dialogue/dilemma when wearing my Levi’s Wedgie Icon High-Rise jeans. They are freaking amazing while standing, but literally have ZERO stretch and are incredibly unforgiving and uncomfortable when sitting!!! Wore them at brunch yesterday – GIANT mistake. HUGE. Couldn’t even finish my breakfast tacos and I ALWAYS finish my breakfast tacos.

    But they make my butt look so good. So… I pick my battles.

    Agree with everyone who said they swear by their Madewells! Wearing mine today at work and I can both breathe/slouch v comfortably. Praise!

  • High-waist jeans have taken over my wardrobe. I’m 5’2 so anything to make my legs look longer. I get stretchy ones (Topshop Joni’s) so they’re actually kinda comfy. Now any time I’m not wearing high waist jeans I’m paranoid I have plumber butt.

  • Courtney Jordan

    This is my favorite sentence I’ve read this month. “They say we only use 10% of our brains, but I think we also only use 10% of our pelvic swagger.”

  • CM

    Hmm this is unrelatable to me. The only high waisted jeans i wear are Rag & Bone and they feel like butter, with no abdomen sucker punch whatsoever. I think they found a magic formula?? (not sponsored)

  • Juliana Salazar

    This is so gr8 @harling_ross:disqus

  • Tony Bowling

    I’m not sure how I got here but that was very worth reading. Very funny!

  • molly_maureen

    this is SO accurate. I adore how my high waist, dark wash jeans make my legs look but LOATHE how they cut into my stomach, preventing me from indulging in food, water or air… and so, I continue to wear them, because fashun

  • tiabarbara

    is this not the price we pay to look hella? i will happily trade the inevitable muffin top for the sucker punch tbh. nobody needs to see my butt crack when i bend over for that is a nightmare they will never recover from.

  • lmaase

    Not even a paragraph in and I burst out laughing. You are a gift.

  • truer words have never been spoken

  • Rosie

    Great use of the word bacchanalia. I am wearing high-waisted jeans now – they are a reasonably stretchy but still quite firm variety – I find you really need some stretch if you don’t want tummy burbles of discomfort all afternoon.
    Also maybe I have just trained some of my intestines to schlep up above the waistline. It’s in their own interest.

  • Neverben

    Man, you are a GREAT writer.

  • Mimi Moss

    This is my favorite. I want to print this out and put it on the wall by my desk so I can revisit such gems as “my high-waist jean recovery boudoir” and “abdominal bacchanalia” whenever I like.

  • Juanita Juniper

    My biggest problem is the insides of the waist of the jeans HURTS! It’s not even necessarily tight, it just idk, irritates my tummy and belly button area. I can’t figure out if it’s stitching (which I cut out), or the belt, or WHAT? I don’t even mean to get high waisted jeans but somehow that’s what’s prevalent now. I hate them. I’m going back to low rise, loose, ripped up, comfy jeans. I do love how skinnies look. American Eagle had some that seemed more comfortable a couple years ago. anyway… so funny, this article!

  • Diana McNeill

    I am so glad i found this article. I am currently dying in my high waisted jeans. Praying for the day to be over. They look fantastic when I’m standing up, but when I’m sitting down I keep thinking of ways to ask to go home early…

  • ramico

    i am literally cackling!!!!!

  • 1eleven

    This perfectly describes my sentiments! I’m glad I’m not alone 🙂