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Do Skinny Jeans Stand a Chance with Gen Z?

When I was nine years old, I decided it was finally time to retire my faded black leggings for some faded blue denim. I instantly fell in love with a pair of jeans in Old Navy’s little girl’s section – not only was it the perfect wash of blue, but it fit me as tight as a glove.

It’s been 10 years and I still can’t get over the magical invention of skinny jeans. But apparently, this opinion has become quite an unpopular one, especially among the rest of Gen Z. 

You may have heard that the iconic company Levi’s “invented” jeans, but who decided that jeans should be slimmed down? After Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis obtained the patent to put rivets on men’s work pants in 1873, the popularity of jeans only grew. And over a century later, skinny jeans emerged onto the scene as a part of punk culture – no one could get enough of the skin-tight denim and jet-black eyeliner combo. 

But you’ll probably agree that skinny jeans reached their ultimate peak in 2010. While 9-year-old me was in awe of the denim wall at Old Navy, you were probably also sporting a pair of super-skinnies from other big-name labels like Hollister, Abercrombie and the Gap. 

As for today – that’s a different story. Aritzia, one of Canada’s top women’s fashion retailers, still carries skinny jeans. But the number of choices is quite limited in comparison to other denim styles. Looking at the current supply on their e-commerce site, skinny jeans only make up 13 of their 120 styles or about one-tenth of the total. On the other hand, the retailer offers over 40 different options for straight-leg jeans.

So what happened to everyone’s go-to pair of pants? According to Elle Magazine, the skinny jean is officially dead. But instead of mourning the loss, you can fill the empty void with current trendy denim styles: boot cut, barrel leg, asymmetrical, cropped and straight-leg jeans.

In fashion, the 20-year cycle explains that what was once trendy will become trendy again – in 20 years. One of the best examples of this is the emergence of Y2K fashion in today’s age. Juicy Couture tracksuits, leopard print camis and bejewelled baby tees all lost traction and eventually, were labelled as tacky. Then they became fashionable again.

But this 20-year trend cycle isn’t always accurate – arguably, some trend cycles have shortened to a decade, a year and maybe even just a few months. With fashion influencers telling us exactly what’s trendy on social media platforms like Pinterest, Instagram and TikTok, do you really have the ability to decide for yourself?

Remember the iconic mirror selfie that Emma Chamberlain posted only a year ago as she sported a vintage Nike crewneck with the flared yoga pants from your childhood? It only took one click from Gen Z’s queen of fashion to declare the newest trend as teenage girls broke out their debit cards to share recreations of the look on TikTok.  

And as trend cycles continue to elapse in the blink of an eye, the issue of overconsumption in the fashion industry only increases. 100 billion new clothing items are created each year, and replacing a perfectly good pair of denim jeans just because they’re a little too fitted for today’s fashion standards isn’t exactly helpful in lowering this number. 

I then took it to Instagram, welcoming any opinion on skinny jeans from my followers. Keep in mind that as a member of Gen Z, I was bound to receive perspectives from other fellow members:

“THEY’RE STILL COOL.”

“L (Loss), clothing baggy is better.”

“I don’t wear them anymore.”

“I like skinny jeans, but I feel I can’t style them anymore because of all the slander.”

“I think they’re not actually unflattering, but the trend is now wider, looser, and flared fits.”

“I think Gen Z has been super into the straight and baggy fit, but overall skinny jeans will never go out of style. They’re just not popular right now.”

So, although, there are always going to be haters, the number of skinny jean advocates in this age might not be as limited as you’d think. And who knows? Maybe Emma Chamberlain will post a picture in some super-skinnies tomorrow and I’ll be able to say, “I told you so.”

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Jessica Ho

Ryerson '24

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