Today over her roast-beef sandwich at Ruby's--because some days, the Key kitchen is just too much--Heather brought up a point that I thought pretty much summed up the cultural consciousness of 2006.
"Can't we just have some new fashions?" she asked. "Please?"
We were staring semi-unabashedly at a woman waiting in line. She was wearing tight, dark-wash legging-jeans and little black ankle boots, and pretty much looked like Vogue had planted her there just to prove to the skeptical masses that yes, actual people do wear skinny jeans. And the masses, they are skeptical. There are three groups of people who are in favor of the skinny jeans, as far as I can tell: the fashion-magazine industry, who ought to know better; the under-eighteen set, who weren't alive the last time we went through this, and therefore aren't responsible for their actions; and Gap, Inc., who were smart enough to capitalize on the ignorant folly of the youth market. Everyone else? Horrified.
Obviously, fashion cycles aren't new. Clothes come in and out all the time. I know this. What boggles the mind about the return of skinny jeans--and 80s redux in general--is that they're so recent and so universally despised, and yet somebody made the decision to bring them back. The 80s aren't vintage; they're not old enough, and certainly not flattering enough, to merit going back to now. Nobody looks in the mirror and says, "I really loved the way my hips looked in those stirrup pants from 1988. Man, we looked cute. Those were the days." People make fashion references to the 80s because they're funny. It's a comment on the ridiculousness of people and the total lack of common sense that goes into fashion. The problem is that someone with way too much influence failed to get the joke, and now here we are, Molly Ringwald-ing it up. Either that, or that person's sitting in a Fifth Avenue office, cracking his or her classy, boot-cut-wearing self up at our expense.
There's nothing like an ugly fashion trend to make a person feel helpless. It's like a tidal wave of bad clothing--you can see it coming from miles away, but you're powerless to stop it. At first, I thought the skinny jeans might be a high-fashion flash in the pan, like ponchos: we'd see them in magazines, a few fashion-forward adolescents would buy them, the rest would end up on the big clearance rack in the sky, and we'd all go on our boot-cut way. I still think it's the pre-driving set who are mostly wearing them (tucked into their Uggs, of course), but I'm beginning to see the inevitability of a tapered future. Slowly, flared jeans will disappear from stores, until only Land's End sells them, and we'll begin to second-guess ourselves. Stacy and Clinton will mock us in the 360-degree mirror, and we'll be ashamed. We'll wonder vaguely why our bodies used to look so balanced and attractive, but we won't be able to place the reason. It's what happens. We get swept up. All we can hope for is an even faster "retro" cycle to take over.
For now, I'm staging my own little resistance movement. I bought a couple of pairs of flared jeans recently, and I wear them with an air of rebellion, I think (also with Converse sneakers). I thought of starting a rallying place on the web--stopskinnyjeans.com--but decided it was a bit of a one-note tune. Eventually, maybe the horror will fade, but for now I'm just trying to be a one-woman army for cute pants. So remember: friends don't let friends wear skinny jeans.