A Farewell To Skinny Jeans

Skinny jeans have been on-trend for at least a third of my life, and now they're going extinct?

Sep 2, 2014 at 5:00pm | Leave a comment

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Now that you are leaving, S.J., must I return to pants so large I could conceivably smuggle contraband in the hems?

Dear S.J.,

Some part of me knew this day would come eventually. Nothing lasts forever, after all, especially when it comes to matters of the heart (or butt). It didn't matter that you seemed to fit me like a glove. Nor did it make a difference that you always made me feel ready to take on anything, whether it be half-drunkenly clambering over a friend's fence in wedge sneakers or showing up for a tasteful brunch with my roommate's mother the next morning. The world turns, the sun rises and sets, and out with the tide you begin to float, taking my heart (and butt comfort) with you.

I guess I should have seen it coming. I barely appreciated you when I had you, having inexplicably preferred floral leggings for the first decade of my existence. This, in spite of said leggings' lack of structural integrity, particularly in the crotch-adjacent region. Still, until I hit 10, I never even dallied with your cousins, preferring instead to take my chances on exposing my underpants (and occasionally more) to my classmates.

Even when I did begin to trust you, our relationship took time. I'd like to think that just made our eventual union stronger, with me having gone through all iterations of overalls, boot-cuts, bell-bottoms and wide-leg and you, well...having been basically the same, but without me inside you. As my peers embraced you, I spurned you, my own insecurities combining with the "skinny" in your name to convince me that the only people who deserved you were those whose calves had a circumference smaller than that of a two-liter soda bottle.

I know now how wrong I was, S.J. In fact, amidst the haze that comprised my late teenage years, I remember our first intimate encounter as clearly as a nightingale's keen through the thick night:

"Dude," quoth my best friend, who had adopted you some months ago. "You should totally try those on."

"I don't know," I said, uncertainly clutching you to my breast in sweaty palms. "They're kind of...small."

"You have a great ass," she lied, "But you'd never know it, because your pants are so bad." (Despite your butt-hugging influence, S.J., this remains true to this day.) 

"I," I said, feeling vaguely insulted. "Hey."

"C'mon, dude, we're in New York City," she insisted, referencing the city's obvious status as a Main Cultural Hub. We were, after all, in a really large H&M. Perhaps the largest H&M either of us had ever entered. 

"Fine," I said, intoxicated by all the jewel-toned cardigans and ten-dollar cardboard sneakers. "But I'm going to look bad."

I did look bad. I suspect, S.J., that we have all looked bad the whole time. Nobody needs to see the contours of our knees that closely. Perhaps we don't need to get visibly short of breath from our zippers smushing into our bellies every time we sit on a public transit seat. And I don't care what my best friend told me then or my roommate tells me now: I am highly suspicious of any outfit that calls for me to feature my "under-butt cleave." That is a sight for the lord baby Jesus and those who have bought me at least one whiskey soda, possibly two.

Even so. That day in New York, when I craned my neck over my shoulder to stare at my ass in the mirror, I joined a decades- or perhaps even centuries-long legacy of those who had come before me. Though The Guardian once theorized that the skinny jean, with its narrow cut, "is very much about the outsider, about singling yourself out as somebody different," by contrast, I finally felt like I fit in. 

When I was in middle school, S.J., my friend Anna's mother once told her in a dressing room that she had "triangle legs." Anna and I both sensed that this wasn't something to take pride in -- we never saw such isoscelesean limbic geometry in magazines or on the popular girls at school -- but we still clung to it fiercely out of sheer obstinacy, making each other "Triangle Legs" badges and using protractors to try and determine the degree of our acuteness. Still, though, I secretly felt ashamed of my membership in the T.L. club all the same, trying to disguise them with baggy cargo pants or yoga pants. It wasn't until that day in the New York dressing room, sweaty from Black Friday adrenaline, that I looked in the mirror and thought, "Meh, screw it."

So I'm fond of you, S.J. I love you when you're a size too small, I love you when you're just a shade so light that I start irrationally worrying about getting a Surprise Period. I love you when my roommate tugs you down by the belt loops in the kitchen to demonstrate that I need to buy new pants, already. I love you when you're 2 percent spandex. I love you when you're 50 percent spandex. I love you when I go from the latter to the former and it feels like climbing into several layers of dried paint. I love you when my thigh-meat friction-rubs a hole in you and I don't notice until I get to work. You made me feel like I had nothing to hide, S. J., and for that, I'll feel forever grateful.

And truthfully, I am sad to hear that you may be leaving us for good. My calves and ankles will cry out in loneliness, I am sure, without the comforting embrace of cotton and polyester swathing them. All of my outfits will appear somehow even shabbier than usual, as if I shrank very slightly since awakening. Though there may be fewer holes in the inner thighs of my clothes, S.J., the hole in my soul will be twice as big.

All I can think to do, clad only in my sorrow and a pair of trousers that I refuse to call "boyfriend" jeans, is to look out the window, sigh, and wait for the wheel of fashion to slowly turn toward you once more.