Tight Fit

By Chrystal Graham • Aug 22nd, 2011 • Category: Lead Story, Pop Culture

By Chrystal Graham

“Why the f*ck is he wearin’ dem jeans?” said a young girl to her friend as they watched an androgynous-looking young man walk by. “That’s not no boy, that’s a girl, stupid. You mad dumb!” replied the friend. Getting louder, the first girl shot back, “Yeah right, trick. I bet you $10 dat he’s a boy!” Noticing the young man looking back startled and confused, they gazed at one another in shock and started laughing hysterically.

Fashion trends change quickly. For years, baggy jeans were all the rage among young, urban men. Over the last several years, baggy pants have gone the way of a saber-toothed tiger, and the sartorial hip have replaced too big with too small. In some cases, way too small. Skinny jeans for men have become the equivalent of high heels for women. It’s a given that discomfort comes with the territory, and if you want the look, you have to pay the price. Even the manliest man walking down the street can be found wearing a pair of tight-fitting jeans.

“They was called ball-bustas and booty-huggas back in the day,” said Jamal Anderson, a tattoo artist in Jamaica Queens. Now, he observed, people are wearing skinny jeans again “like they’re the sh*t.” He was speaking from experience, as his jeans seemed to be several sizes too small.

The jeans, while they may not flatter, don’t discriminate. You will find men who are slim, average sized, overweight, and everything in between squeezing themselves into a pair of skinny jeans. Because, as with most things en vogue, it doesn’t matter how you look as long as you’re wearing what’s popular.

But not everyone is convinced they’ll look better with all their bodily flaws exposed beneath a thin layer of denim. One overweight man who prefers to be called Big Marv explained that not only should skinny jeans not be worn be someone his size, but they shouldn’t be worn by men in general. “How you spend $600 on a pair of name-brand pants that don’t even fit you? I will smack the sales lady in the store that’s tellin’ me to buy a pair of skinny jeans,” he said. Big Marv’s advice to the guys following this trend is, quite simply: “Stop stuffin’ ya jeans in ya sneakas.” He believes that men’s jeans should be worn loosely so that their lower body parts have room to breathe.

“It doesn’t make sense to me. If you’re fat, why don’t you wear loose-fitting clothing? Personally if I was overweight, I couldn’t see myself wearing clothing that was my size, much less smaller,” said Timothy Wright, a young man outside an office building in Midtown Manhattan. “I’m 6’1 and only 160 lbs. I see some guys who weigh 100 pounds more wearing jeans that are too small for me! What kind of sense does that make?” Wright explained that when he was a child, he would get hand-me-down jeans from his older brother. By the time his brother outgrew them, they were already too small for him. “Kids used to make fun of me in school because I had tight jeans, calling me names like ‘tight a**’ and yelling out ‘nice legs’ during recess. It was embarrassing back then but if that happened now, I’d be the cool kid!”

Despite the fact that the sizes of jeans have changed with this trend, how the jeans are worn hasn’t. You will still find boys and men wearing their skinny jeans halfway down or completely off their backsides. They also continue to wear belts, to no apparent effect. But belts are still fashionable, so they make for a trendy accessory. Function be damned.

The irony of skinny jeans is that jeans are intended to be comfortable, but the way these jeans are being worn, it would be hard to picture someone running, playing sports, doing construction, or any other kind of physical work in a pair.

Feeding the public desire for this undersized fashion statement, manufacturers and designers are always coming out with new skinny-jean styles. For example, a name brand such as Diesel, which which first popularized skinny jeans in the gay community years ago, now leads the mainstream consumer market as well.

“I would definitely say that the skinny jeans trend has spiked sales,” said Steve Carland, a sales representative at Diesel. “I’ve been working here since 1996 and there was a time in this store when it was like a graveyard. The customers were hard to attract back then. After they asked the price of a pair of jeans, they would laugh, scoff, or simply walk out. The idea of paying $300-$600 for a pair of jeans did not appeal to most people.” He continued, “Most of the customers that bought our jeans were from a certain crowd. They were either tourists or gay men.” Now, he said, the store is drawing many more young, straight men of every racial background.

It’s not just expensive, select, and premium brands that you will find cashing in on the trend. Even mass brands like the Gap and Levi’s are feeding the seemingly endless market for skinnies.

It ultimately comes down to the desired look. “I’m just not into baggy jeans,” said Tyrese Thompson, a high school student in Jamaica, Queens. “That’s something those old heads wear. I don’t really go out sayin’ ‘hey I wanna go buy me a pair of skinnies,’ but that’s just my style. It’s who I am and I look fly in ‘em. If my jeans don’t fit right, I don’t look right.”

And fitting right, for now, means fitting tight.

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