I have precisely 10 skeletons in my closet.
That’s what I’ve started calling my jeans because I’m pretty sure 2017 was the year we witnessed the demise of denim.
It’s probably temporary, so perhaps “crisis” is a better word; regardless, our pants are in a pickle. Up until recently, for as long as I can recall, there has always been a reigning style of jeans: bootcut jeans, skinny jeans, Levi’s vintage jeans, Rachel Comey-esque high-waist wide-leg jeans, embellished/patchwork jeans, boyfriend jeans, cropped kick-flare jeans, straight-leg jeans, trouser jeans. As soon as you got tired of a particular silhouette, there was always an exciting new one the horizon. We were on a roll!
Around the beginning of 2017, the momentum crashed. Like runners who sprinted too fast and ran out of breath — or in this case, untilled denim styles — we had suddenly depleted our resources. I found myself gazing forlornly at the collection I’ve amassed over the years (to recap: bootcut jeans, skinny jeans, Levi’s vintage jeans, Rachel Comey-esque high-waist wide-leg jeans, embellished/patchwork jeans, boyfriend jeans, cropped kick-flare jeans, straight-leg jeans, trouser jeans), wondering to myself what the hell had happened.
I knew there was nothing intrinsically wrong with any of them, but for a reason I couldn’t quite articulate, not a single pair made my spine tingle with the thrill of sartorial excitement, a feeling I’ve come to crave like caffeine each morning as I get dressed.
Then I had an epiphany. “It’s not you, it’s me,” I whispered to the skeletons.
Or rather: It’s not jeans, it’s us. It’s how we consume.
In the age of the internet and social media, the life cycle of news has grown increasingly shorter and faster, and fashion trends have followed suit. Nowhere is this shrinking more evident than in the turnover of popular denim silhouettes, which seemed to quadruple in speed around 2013 — coinciding, no doubt, with the rise of Instagram and fashion blogging and other digital vehicles for saturating eyeballs with the style of the moment.
Jeans are an interesting illustration of this phenomenon because unlike other trends (e.g. off-the-shoulder tops, peplum, wedge sneakers, etc.), they’ve always been too much of a wardrobe staple to ever really “die.” Instead, they simply mutate and occasionally recycle, staying fresh by virtue of the fact that they contain so many possible iterations.
Until they didn’t.
I don’t blame them for burning out. It was bound to happen eventually, especially when the pace with which we were pilfering their silhouette coffers picked up so rapidly. Besides, let’s face it, jeans have been working really hard for us since Jacob W. Davis invented them in 1871. (Don’t worry, I had to Google that.) It’s not unreasonable for them to take some time off.
It is, however, inconvenient, especially as winter looms and I have no frogging clue what pants to put on my person. I’m still wearing my jeans because it’s cold and they’re, you know, sitting there, but like I said, they are not contributing much in the thrill department and are therefore merely serving a purpose (that purpose being leg warmth).
To compensate, I’ve been simultaneously sniffing out alternative lower-half thrills on other, non-denim pastures, experimenting with different fabrics and the like. The most significant pay-off so far is my new obsession with corduroy. More on that later.
Until then, please tell me: Are you and your jeans on the rocks, and if so, what the frog are you wearing instead?
Feature image by Edith Young.