My generation were called ‘cheugy’ for our loyalty to the skin-tight fit, and the ‘no skinny jeans’ video trend in 2021 urged us to throw them out, burn them, or turn them into something new. The skinny jeans’ popularity began to wane — fast. Last year, market research firm NPD Group confirmed that straight-leg jeans had outsold skin-tight styles for the first time in years.
Of course, we can’t blame Gen Z entirely for the skinny jeans’ change in fortune. Like many things, Covid had a clear influence on their staying power. After staying indoors for months on end, comfort (read: sweatpants) ruled. And when the opportunity to slip back into jeans again arose, styles which required centurion levels of strength to shimmy into just didn’t have the same appeal. Hence, boyfriend and mom fit styles took over, as well as wide legs, thanks to Gen Z’s love of all things Y2K.
Yet, the autumn/winter 2023 shows decreed that skinny jeans were ripe for a resurgence. Celine’s show by Hedi Slimane was entitled Age of Indieness, featuring dark skinny jeans tucked into western boots, worn with a sequin jacket and shades.
Skinnies were also seen in various iterations at labels including Saint Laurent (which was helmed by Slimane from 2012 - 2016), Blumarine, Prada and Gucci. There were tapered sequin leggings, super-slimline cigarette pants and skinny trackpants, which all looked appealingly wearable and gave a fresh spin on the maligned cut.
Those familiar with indie history, will recall that Slimane is something of a godfather to the indie sleaze aesthetic, which made a comeback last year. The French designer famously sent a very slim army of models down the runway in skinnies at his 2003 Dior Homme. The jeans quickly became the uniform of indie bands such as The Strokes, before becoming omnipresent thanks to It girls like Kate Moss, Alexa Chung and the cast of The Hills. They remained a mainstay into the 2010s, albeit with less cool factor, before their major 2021 nosedive.
Of course, skinnies never fully went away. In fact, in January, Insider reported that Levi’s top-selling items in the final quarter of 2022 were both skinny styles. Jeans will always be a staple, and some people live and die by their favourite cut. Skinnies just lost a serious amount of cool factor - as well as floor space in stores.
Though thanks to Slimane and Co, the new-look skinny is beginning to jostle for homepage spotlighting on fashion sites, with Celine and Saint Laurent’s styles helping them see a reprieve. Heather Gramston, Senior Head of Menswear and Womenswear Buying at Browns, says, “The past few years we have seen the resurgence of denim as a trend on the runway which has driven the return of the jean in all shapes and styles. Skinny fit is definitely back though not yet the overarching trend, with Hedi Slimane at Celine leading the way. For AW23, there was a dramatic shift to classics and we expect to see this trend continue on the runway for the coming season.”
Indeed, the Saint Laurent versions have been doing the rounds in street style pics — a sure-fire sign the masses will follow. And if there’s anyone the masses follow, it’s the royals. The so-called Copy Kate and Markle Sparkle effects are well documented for both up and coming British brands and established ones — and with both women having been spotted in spray-on skinnies this month, their influence is highly likely to trigger a clamour from shoppers. The Princess of Wales wore hers with Veja flats at Houghton Festival, while Meghan Markle was seen out and about in California wearing a former cult classic style, the Le Skinny De Jeanne by FRAME, with a camel coat and Chanel flats.
Markle has the kudos to put the skinnies back on the fashion radar. Indeed, a fashion editor for Who What Wear even declared that Markle’s look made her “seriously regret getting rid of” the same jeans in 2015. Lo and behold the FRAME skinny is now sold out in the US.
To give the look a 2023 update, look for a style that sits somewhere between straight and skinny at the hem – much easier to slip on. Or even try a pair that’s a little slouchy on the lower leg. Thickish denim is a must for a streamlined silhouette.
Gramston suggests that you “style a la Celine with a black slim fit blazer and a western boot for a full indie sleaze look”.
Perhaps it’s time to take those Depop listings down or even reinvest. After all: if jorts can take over summer, surely a skinny wouldn’t be so bad for autumn?
These are the best new skinnies to shop now
Re/Done black high rise skinny jeans, £283, Browns
Hoxton jeans, £226.99, PAIGE
FRAME Le High Skinny high-rise jeans, £175, Selfridges
Skinny fit jeans in Santa Monica, £620, Saint Laurent
501 skinny jeans, £80, Levi’s