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The Skinny Jean: A Brief History

Skinny jeans, whether you love them or loathe them, are everywhere. But where did they come from?

Fashion of the 50s and 60s:

Jeans became the symbol of rebellion and passionate youth who wore the sexual symbols of the time. James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Elvis wore their straight, skinny jeans. Although women in the 50s did not usually wear jeans; Audrey Hepburn, Sandra Dee, and Marilyn Monroe wore 1950s fashion for skinny, skinny pants that had the same sexy silhouette as today’s skinnies. By the 1960s, women’s jeans were more common (although the zipper was down the back) and they still had that slim silhouette. The look could be super sweet like the neighbor’s, or sexy and rebellious like those greaser girls in the musical and movie of the same name. Rock and roll was coming of age and skinny jeans were the uniform.

70s Fashion

The essence of Rock and Roll stays strong in skinny jeans despite the fluff and flare of the Disco era. When we think of ’70s fashion, we think of elephant bells and wonderful flare jeans; But dig a little deeper and you’ll find the beginnings of the punk movement and the tightest jeans ever. Tight from the waist to the ankle, safety pins were often worn to keep them snug around the body and increase the allure of bondage. Think of The Sex Pistols and The Ramones as prime examples. Vivian Westwood had her own store that sold this “anti-fashion” to the ultra-modern public.

Eighties fashion

Flash Dance collides with Spandex to bring a whole new look to the denim scene. Skinny jeans were definitely in fashion for both women and men. Skinny and stonewashed, (no stretch in denim yet) ’80s fashion is where tapered leg jeans really made their mark, and the style lasted until the early’ 90s. Remember those oversized sweatshirts and hoodies? colorful leg warmers? Pat Benetar, Chrissie Hynde, and The Rolling Stones, all serious rockers wore their skinny jeans (without the leg warmers, of course).

90s Fashion

While mainstream fashion moves towards the boot cut, skinny jeans get their style back. No longer popular in ’90s fashion, skinny jeans can still be found on the music scene. The Rolling Stones kept rolling, and underground punk with its goth cousin was entrenched in skinny jeans (anti-fashion once again). Ever wonder why “Rock n Roll” is mentioned so often in reference to jeans? For mainstream America, skinny jeans had taken an unsettling turn, evolving into tapered leg styles and even the horrors of faux denim leggings (some people just have trouble moving on).

2000-2003

Denim is everywhere, after years of boot cuts and flares, skinny jeans suddenly look fresh and new. Here we are again, but skinny jeans didn’t show up overnight. It has taken a while to get into the mainstream. In the fall of 2002, avant-garde designers were showing off skinny jeans wrinkled over high heels and tucked into boots. Stella McCartney, Versus (Versace) and Rock and Republic show off skinny jeans. For 2003, the trend becomes even more prevalent on the runways and all the premium denim brands are on board. You have to admit, it looks great on those runway models.

2004-2005

Celebrity power is omnipotent, if Kate is wearing it, it has to be good.

Designers are still pushing the slimmer, and the trend is catching on in London. Visitors to the High Street feel totally outdated in their tried and true boot cut jeans. JBrand Jeans launches in Los Angeles, producing straight and skinny jeans in dark washes with minimal details. Celebrities like Kate Moss, Angelina Jolie, and Sienna Miller embrace the new trend and look fabulous in it. Our own fashionista, Ada, bought her first pair of skinny jeans in 2005, but America’s mainstream is still slow to catch up. Lucky Brand Jeans introduces skinnies to their customers only to see them languish on store shelves.

2006

The Skinny Jean is in fashion! It’s hard to use, but you know what they say: “No pain, no gain.” It is here, it is there, it is everywhere! Suddenly, Americans see Skinnies in every store. Almost all denim brands offer at least one version of skinny, cigarette, or super straight. There are other jeans out there, but these are the ones at the top of everyone’s list. Stores are pushing the new look, and everyone from fashion editors to bloggers is writing about this new trend. Earlier in the year, news reports are mixed, predicting that this is a style that just won’t catch on in mainstream America. But for the fall season, you can get your slim fix everywhere from the hippest boutiques to the local discount store. Skinny is definitely at the peak of popularity right now.

How long will the style last? Whats Next? Let’s look at London and see, is it a wide leg jean?

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