Goodbye, Skinny Jeans. It’s Time For A Baggy Trousers Revolution

By Dan Ahwa
Walk this way: Lewis Hamilton, Dua Lipa, Justin Bieber and Yara Shahidi in a parade of wide-leg trouser styles. Collage / Dan Ahwa

The conflict between skinny jeans and baggy trousers boils down to defiant millennials and unrelenting Gen Zs. Whatever side of the fence you sit on, it’s safe to say the prevailing preference for relaxed trouser shapes is here to stay.

The debate about whether skinny jeans are in or out

There in plain English for all and sundry to see at Hallensteins Sylvia Park one Saturday afternoon in May, was a window decal with words that proclaimed ‘The Baggy Revolution’ followed by three voluminous trouser leg styles: parachute, baggy and cargo.

The menswear chain store is arguably what Glassons is to womenswear — a mass retailer that serves quick, digestible fashion, reliable basics and a collection of clothes that run the gamut from casualwear to formal, and always in keeping with trends, albeit one or two seasonal steps behind for safety.

In this case, it is a baggy trouser silhouette.

The point of this definitive statement from a mass retailer is to confirm that nobody (at least under the age of 35) would be caught dead wearing a pair of skinny jeans.

Behind the words in the window were a trio of mannequins wearing an assortment of new-season trousers, the kind of 90s and early 2000s-inspired skatewear bottoms once beloved by the All Saints and David Beckham.

Looser, generously sized casual trousers with a utilitarian bent permeated the collections of designers at the height of 90s through to the mid-2000s. Brands like London-based Maharishi became a cult favourite with their distinctively embroidered snow pants, now seeing a surge in popularity among collectors on resale websites such as Depop and eBay.

In the 2000s, Western obsession with Eastern mysticism, things like yoga and wellness journeys (thanks, Ray of Light), filtered down into the parachute trousers that prevailed from London to L.A., a look that helped define a certain nonchalance after the turn of the new millennium. Today, those same values might explain why baggy-fit jeans and trousers have made a revival at a time when we’re all trying to chill out.

It’s a silhouette that pre-dates the millennium, of course — from post-war pleated, high-waist trousers to 90s hip-hop obsessions with baggy, low-slung denim jeans with brands such as P. Diddy’s Sean Jean and Jay-Z’s Rocawear aimed squarely at rap and hip-hop fans.

We can’t talk about the revival of baggy trousers without acknowledging the different types of trousers and styles extracted from very different eras. Yet they all seem to be offering the same thing — a louche, languid silhouette that’s in keeping with the times. A skinny jean and all its restrictiveness not only feels outdated but also sits incongruously with the kind of hybrid dressing we’ve become accustomed to over the past three years.

On TikTok, the feeling is mutual, as fashion and content creators are videoing their sartorial glow-up from skinny to baggy, igniting plenty of conversation around why a looser silhouette looks right for now. L.A.-based creator Ethan Glenn’s May 16 post showing his skinny jeans to wide-leg transition has already clocked an impressive 2.5 million views.


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A looser shape is also being revisited by Levi’s, which continues to sell out of its iconic 501 jean style known for its straighter fit, while skate sub-cultures continue to influence fashion with a uniform of relaxed fit Dickie’s and skater jeans.

Famous men who dabble in fluid dressing such as Justin Bieber, Harry Styles and Lewis Hamilton have also given men permission to explore fluid, looser silhouettes when it comes to their trouser choice, combining a sense of style and individuality the LGBTQ+ and rainbow communities have long advocated.

It’s also menswear designers such as New York-based Willy Chavarria, who is creating his own signature voluminous jeans and trousers with his eponymous line dedicated to his Latin roots. The fact that Willy is the senior vice president of design for North America and Global Essentials Apparel for menswear at Clavin Klein only reinforces a baggy trouser agenda for the masses.

Left to right: Dries Van Noten, Willy Chavarria and Bally spring/summer 2023 collections. Photos / Getty Images
Left to right: Dries Van Noten, Willy Chavarria and Bally spring/summer 2023 collections. Photos / Getty Images

Skinny jeans also represent a certain unapologetic millennial cringe as worn expertly by the Princess of Wales herself for the family’s official Christmas Card photo from 2022. It was a lesson in Royal family PR management 101, the relatable young royals, the future monarchs, dressed in denim.

Like some millennials refusing to kowtow to Gen Z’s pressure to ditch skinny jeans, here was Kate in all her cheugy glory wearing a white blouse tucked into a pair of her favourite skinny blue jeans worn with another cheugy wardrobe essential — a pair of white Superga canvas sneakers.

“Kate said rights for skinny jeans,” wrote one Royal fan on Kensington Palace’s Instagram post of the family.

Several fashion designers are still trying to convince us skinny jeans are worth keeping on standby, particularly on the back of fashion’s ongoing obsession with nostalgia.

As we face the possibility of another recession, it’s no wonder the return of ‘indie sleaze’ has made something of a renaissance in 2023. The specific era in fashion of 2006-2012 was something of an optimistic response to the Great Recession of 2008.

Designers such as Hedi Slimane first sent an army of all-white waifish male models in skinny jeans down the runway at his Dior Homme spring/summer 2003 collection, with his influential take on the jean quickly sported by everyone from Kate Moss as early as 2005 (in another fashion staple, a pair of ballet flats), Alexa Chung and every indie/hipster lead male vocalist of a band during this time.

More recently, the designer — who is now artistic director for Celine — delivered a similar skinny jean style for his spring/summer 2022 collection for the French luxury brand, only to remove the tight-fitting jeans almost completely this season.

Skinny jeans also now represent a scapegoat of sorts for designers like Hedi Slimane and casting directors at brands like Miu Miu, who are now trying to push some subliminal agenda around the problematic return to skinny Y2K bodies on the runway.

After some progress in the industry to truly represent a diverse range of sizes, the regressive approach is another example of why skinny jeans and the very term itself feel completely out of touch.

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