Walk around the Mission District for 15 minutes and you’ll find innumerable people wearing skinny jeans or skinnies, as those who wiggle into them refer to narrow-legged pants.   They’re alive—perhaps to prove the 1904 observation first made by Georg Simmel in his essay Fashion, that there is “not a trace of expediency in  the method by which fashion dictates.”

No matter that some find them difficult to get into and uncomfortable, there they are— skinnies in all colors, washes and types of denim, worn by everyone, from high school students, to bartenders, to young hipsters running to any of the local coffee shops to move into a Wi-Fi zone. Every time I see a pair I think about when they first came back in the early 2000s (yep, from the late 1970s) and how reluctant some were to accept their return.

“Black men don’t wear tight pants,” I heard from a few of my friends in New York.  Several, however,  now own multiple pairs.  My friend Stanley has a pair in almost every color .  When I asked  what he’ll do when skinnies go out of style, he was unconcerned.  “They’ll never go out of style!”  I hope for the sake of the supertight purple pair he owns that he’s right.

But his love for the pants and his statement (shouted at me in a high pitched fervor) got me thinking.  Will skinny jeans ever go out of style?  Will they be like pashmina scarves or the blazer…returning to stay? And, what does that say about us?

Many credit model Kate Moss for the widespread popularity of the rock and roll staple.  But really, take one look at a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph of Patti Smith and it’s clear who got there first.

Skateboarders, BMX riders, rock and roll stars  and eventually the hip hop industry broadened the spectrum of wearers–setting off a revolutionary comeback on the runways.  In 1999 skinny jeans were still just on the radar of the most in-the-know fashion heavy weights, still in the trend forecasting stages.  But by 2000 Christian Lacroix’s Fall ready-to-wear runway show featured them.  In 2003 Betsy Johnson’s Fall ready-to-wear show followed suit, and today if you browse you have two full pages of skinnies to choose from.

Up until this spring, I had never bought a pair of jeans, but then I needed something to wear for crawling around on photo assignments so I relented, but they were not skinnies.  Now in the interest of research,  I ventured out to see why the narrow-legged trend had worked its way into closets of even the unlikeliest wearers (my editor thinks that no one over the age of 35 should wear them–but so many do).

I started in the Mission District where the Candy Store Collective had reasonably priced skinnies, but not ones that fit me. Isso‘s fit me–waist maybe a little big–but at $64 or so, too  too expensive.  So, I worked my way downtown.

Forty pairs later–in various colors and brands, ranging from simple skinny to I could barely get my foot in skinny–I found only two pairs that qualified–good looking, somewhat comfortable and didn’t flatten my God-given booty, but both were outside of my price range.  The verdict: I am not ready for skinny jeans.

But why is everyone else?  Well, it may get back to Simmel and expediency–it doesn’t matter in fashion trends. And, it may have something to do with the secure place jeans have in our culture. Skinnies offer an alternative in an apparel that is a global staple.

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