Why Gen Z Hating Skinny Jeans Makes Perfect Sense
Jeans have long been linked to youth rebellion and huge cultural movements. Considering the decade we’ve just had, it’s no surprise that the reign of skinny jeans is over.
Early last year we started to see the reigning skinny jeans be dethroned. The internet was the battleground for yet another generational war, between a group unwilling to accept that everything they love was becoming lame, spearheaded by a youth culture rebelling against it.
It’s not the first nor last time we’ll see it happen. And this generational tug-o-war can usually be seen in styles of jeans.
The Riveting Origin Of Jeans
The story of how jeans even became part of our wardrobes dates back to 1873.
Levi Strauss was a successful merchant who sold various dry goods, including cloth to a tailor named Jacob Davis. As a tailor, Davis made trousers for workers, and he found that they tore a lot around the pockets and zipper. He and Strauss decided to team up and make durable work pants reinforced with metal rivets to stop them from tearing.
They got a patent for it, and the rest is history.
Jeans continued to be a workwear staple into the 1920s and 30s, then eventually made their way into mainstream fashion culture correlating with their appearances in Hollywood movies. The blue jean was romanticised by the likes of John Wayne and Gary Cooper, who were known for their rugged cowboy hero vibes. Vogue featured denim on its cover for the first time in the 1930s, heralding in its new era as a fashion staple.
The Rebellious Legacy Of Our Humble Jeans
Hollywood played a role again in the shift of denim jeans from a fashion item to a cultural statement, with the help of actors like James Dean and Marlon Brando. In contrast to the all-American cowboy heroes of the 30s, these pop culture bad boys were known for their edgy, rebellious roles in films like Rebel Without A Cause and The Wild One. They wore their denim a little tighter and less utilitarian, moving away from its workwear origins.
The jeans themselves became inextricably linked to this culture of youth disillusionment and backlash to the status quo. And from here, jeans began their journey as a symbol of rebellion.
The 1960s were marked by hugely important cultural movements in the US, like the civil rights movement and anti-war sentiment from the Vietnam war. Embroidery and patches could be sewn on to declare support. Seams of straight-leg jeans were split and patched with different materials to wear with boots, creating the new flared and bellbottom silhouettes.
Second-wave feminism also made big steps in the late 60s and early 70s, with the first ever women’s march held in 1971. Denim jeans, traditionally linked to masculine workwear or rebellion, were worn as a symbol of equality.
The 70s saw it being re-embraced as a part of all-American culture, with the iconic Daisy Dukes made popular by the TV show The Dukes of Hazzard. They also started to get a little fancy, thanks to brand campaigns by the likes of Calvin Klein and Guess introducing them into their collections.
In the midst of the Cold War, blue Levi’s became a symbol of Western capitalism. They were a part of this ‘all American’ image that many Europeans had of Americans, so jeans were heavily linked to Western culture. And being able to finally buy a pair was a symbolic moment for a lot of Eastern Europeans.
The baggy jeans of the 90s were originally driven by practicality amidst the rise of hip hop culture and breakdancing, which obviously needs room to move. Loose, wide-fit denim was a way to reject what was ‘appropriate’ at the time, with artists like Wu-Tang Clan and Aaliyah repping the baggy fit.
The 2000s saw jeans getting tighter and sexier, with ultra low-rise styles worn by pop icons like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, and we entered the golden age of skinny jeans and emo subculture. By the 2010s, skinny jeans were the norm and a major wardrobe staple for most millennials.
Considering the impressive rebellious legacy of our humble denim jeans, it only makes sense that they’ve sparked some outrage again.