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What are Skinny Jeans?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated May 21, 2024
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Skinny jeans can have several definitions. They may refer to very tight fitting jeans that have a tapered leg and are usually made of denim. They’re also sometimes the pants women refer to as the elusive pair of jeans they could fit into if they just lost a few pounds. The first definition is more common.

The skinny style wasn’t always seen only in jeans when it was first worn in the early 1950s. The pants had other names like pencil pants, and they were noticeably tapered to fit the leg with a very slim cut leg bottom that hugged the ankles. Such styles were worn by men and women, and were popularized by people in the rock and roll industry, in country western music and also by several noted actresses like Sandra Dee.

Since the 1950s, skinny jeans have come in and out of style, depending on the preference of the moment. In contrast to the bell-bottoms worn by many in the 1970s, punk rockers often defined themselves away from the Disco movement with tighter jeans. Both New Wavers and Heavy Metal artists in the 1980s could wear pants that closely fit the body. These weren’t always jeans, and might be more similar to leggings, or were sometimes made out of leather

The slim fit was on hiatus for most of the 1990s, as wide leg or less tapered styles become more popular. In the 2000s, many people started wearing skinny jeans again, and incorporated some fairly new features from the 1990s in new skinny jean styles. These features include the use of nylon or spandex with denim, which makes the jeans stretch slightly, allowing the wearer to fit into a fairly tight pair of them. Also, the lower waist style of women’s jeans that began to be popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s is now featured in many styles.

This style of jean doesn’t flatter everyone, and is really best worn by those who are thinner than average. The tapered leg can make even medium sized hips look fairly large, and larger hips may look quite big. Wearing pants that fit well is important to showcase the wearer's figure to its best advantage, and wider leg styles are often better suited to people with medium or large hips. Fortunately, these styles often remain popular, while the skinny jean appears to come in and out of style, but isn’t worn by everyone even when it is fashionable.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a BeautyAnswered contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By honeybees — On Nov 10, 2012

I don't wear skinny jeans myself but think some women look great in them. If I had the shape for them, I would wear them proudly, and only wish I looked good wearing that style of jean.

I know they sell skinny jeans for men but don't care for them on men so much. I don't like baggy jeans, but the skinny jeans on men just don't have the same look. I'm not sure what I would do if my husband came home with a pair of skinny jeans.

By LisaLou — On Nov 10, 2012

I have what I call skinny jeans and fat jeans in my closet. If I have lost some weight I always feel pretty good when I can get into a pair of my skinny jeans. My weight fluctuates so much that I have to keep different sizes of jeans on hand. I would love to lose enough weight that I needed to have new skinny jeans, but it seems like I am wearing my fat jeans most of the time.

By sunshined — On Nov 10, 2012

I am short and petite and didn't think skinny jeans would look good on me. I thought they would look best on people who were taller, but I actually ended up loving them! I bought a pair of stretch skinny jeans and like the way they fit my body. I usually have trouble finding jeans that are the right length, but all the skinny jeans I have tried on have not been too long for me.

I don't wear them all the time, but have a couple pair in my closet that I like to wear when I am in the mood. I really like the look of skinny jeans and high heels, but I am too clumsy for that. I usually just wear a pair of flats when I wear my skinny jeans.

By julies — On Nov 09, 2012

When I saw skinny jeans back in fashion I was hoping they would be short lived, but it doesn't look that way. I see more skinny jeans in the store all the time and avoid them as much as possible. While I do agree they look good on someone with the right shape, they do nothing to flatter my figure.

I even tried a pair on just to see what they would look like and I tried to take them off as fast as I could. These jeans don't just slide off as easily as other jeans do. I had a hard time getting them past my calves and wondered why someone would go to so much effort to wear them.

My sister can buy skinny jeans and look great in them, but I need to stick with jeans that have a flared bottom. They are much more forgiving and look better with the extra weight I carry on my hips.

By sapphire12 — On Dec 13, 2010

Denim skinny jeans can be more flattering when worn with a longer and/or looser top, such as a tunic or something empire waist. That way, you can have the silhouette of thin legs while avoiding the risk of a noticeably wider middle.

By helene55 — On Dec 12, 2010

As skinny jeans have become more popular again, there are also styles which are more flattering to people who are not pencil thin. Some skinny leg jeans, for example, now come in a variety of waistlines, allowing people who prefer a higher waist to have that comfort with a thinner leg; some also come in a more straight leg style, which is less tighter.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen

Writer

With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a BeautyAnswered contributor, Tricia...
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