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The Skinny Jean: A Brief History

Skinny Jeans, whether you love them or loathe them, they’re everywhere. But where did they come from?

1950s and 1960s fashion:

Jeans became the symbol of rebellion and passionate youth worn by the sex symbols of the day. James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Elvis wore their jeans straight and slim. Although women in the 50’s didn’t often wear jeans; Audrey Hepburn, Sandra Dee, and Marilyn Monroe wore the 50’s fashion of slim, close fitting pants that had the same sexy silhouette as today’s skinnies. By the 60’s women’s jeans were more common (even though the zipper was in the back) and they continued to have that skinny silhouette. The look could be super sweet like the girl next door, or sexy and rebellious like those greaser chics in the musical and movie of the same name. Rock and Roll was coming of age and tight jeans were the uniform.

1970s Fashion

The essence of Rock and Roll stays strong in skinny jeans despite the fluff and flash of the Disco era. When we think of 70’s fashion, we think of elephant bells and groovy flare jeans; but dig a little deeper and you’ll find the beginnings of the punk movement and the skinniest jeans in history. Tight from the waist to the ankle, safety pins were often used to keep them snug around the body and increase that bondage appeal. Think of The Sex Pistols and The Ramones as prime examples. Vivian Westwood had her own shop selling this “anti-fashion” to the ultra hip crowd.

1980s fashion

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

1990s Fashion

While mainstream fashion heads toward the boot cut, skinny jeans recapture their cool. No longer popular in 90’s fashion, tight jeans could still be found on the music scene. The Rolling Stones were still rolling along, and underground Punk with its Goth cousin were entrenched in tight skinny jeans (anti-fashion once again). Ever wonder why “Rock n Roll” is so often mentioned in reference to jeans? For mainstream America the skinny jean had taken a disturbing 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, the skinny jean looks suddenly fresh and new. Here we are again, but skinny jeans didn’t just pop up over night. It has taken a while to hit the mainstream. In fall of 2002 cutting edge designers were showing skinny jeans scrunched over high heels and tucked into boots. Stella McCartney, Versus (Versace), and Rock and Republic are all showing skinny jeans. By 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

The Power of celebrity is omnipotent, if Kate is wearing it, it’s got to be good.

Designers are still pushing the skinny, and the trend catches on in London. Visitors to High Street feel totally out of date in their tried and true boot cut jeans. JBrand Jeans is launched in LA, producing straight and skinny jeans in dark washes with minimal detailing. Celebrities such as Kate Moss, Angelina Jolie, and Sienna Miller embrace the new trend and look fabulous in it. Our very own fashionista, Ada, bought her first pair of skinny jeans in 2005, but mainstream America is still slow to catch on. Lucky Brand Jeans introduces skinnies to their customers only to watch them languish on the store shelves.

2006

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

How long will the style last? What’s next? Let’s look to London and see, is that a wide leg jean?


Source by Lori Hayashida

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