I have vivid memories of my mum wearing classic Levi’s 501s – stonewashed, high-waisted with a button-fly and loose tapered legs in signature thick denim – throughout my childhood to do the gardening or take the dog on a muddy walk.
As I hit adolescence, when replicating Kate Moss and Sienna Miller in their super-skinny Sass Bide ‘Misfits’ (remember those?) became my ultimate goal, I would tease her about how ‘dated’ her pale Levi’s were. ‘They’ll come back around one day,’ she’d say, like all mums do.
She was right: they have. Now her single pair of life-worn Levi’s make me look like the dated one. I own 24 pairs of jeans – and every single one of them is skinny.
After years of riding high, the skinny jean is now the bedridden former rock star of denim
After years of riding high, this style is now the bedridden former rock star of denim, clinging on for dear life as it watches its younger, peppier counterparts steal the limelight. Sure, Kate Moss is still wearing them, but she’s Kate Moss and I, sadly, am not.
What used to be my fail-safe outfit, the staple that formed the basis of every single look I wore, now makes me feel lumpy and overexposed. No matter what I pair them with, the proportions somehow feel all wrong.
I’m not the only one who feels this way, either. ‘As I get older, it’s not about showing off skinny legs, or figure-hugging clothing – feeling comfortable in my clothes and in myself is more important,’ says fashion editor and The Frugality blogger Alexandra Stedman, 33. ‘Plus, the denim styles at the moment are moving away from slick silhouettes to more relaxed and voluminous – and I love that.’
Parisian writer and creative consultant Camille Charrière, 28, agrees. ‘It was very hard to get out of skinnies, especially being French, but now I find it hard to get back into them. I think it comes with being a certain age – you look more rock’n’roll in skinny jeans, but more elegant in boyfriend jeans,’ she says, adding that she finds the best jeans courtesy of Levi’s, Monki and HM.
But where did it all go wrong for skinny jeans? ‘Jeggings ruined them,’ says Donna Wallace, ELLE’s Accessories Editor, who currently favours a pair of Lee straight-leg men’s jeans that she’s cut off at the hems. ‘As soon as they started bastardising the denim and putting in too much stretch, it became trashy.’
Our perception of what looks cool has shifted, and though I’m a little miffed to realise that the skinny jean isn’t, as I had previously thought, my denim life partner, it’s a sign of a greater shift in fashion, and that is always exciting.