The denim quarrel

The denim quarrel

Has the death knell of the skinny jean sounded? If Millenials are trying to put up a front to delay its disappearance, the GenZ seems to have banished it for good. New musical icons, body-positive movement, vintage trend… Explanation of a style war.

by Ophélie Francq

Nestled in a café in the 9th arrondissement, a couple seems tense. If you listen carefully, you’ll understand that in the middle of a shopping session, the gentleman (approximately 35 years old) has “subtly” tried to make his young beloved (25 years old at a glance) understand that she could sometimes buy tighter jeans. She who has a body so beautifully shaped. The young woman is offended. According to her, slim rhymes with uncomfortable, has-been and high school years. Mr. holds his position, in his circle of friends, women wear it with pride.

Without knowing it, this couple is symptomatic of a real generational quarrel around the jeans. A conflict between the Millenials (designating people born between the late 1980s and 1996) and Generation Z (those born between 1997 and 2010). Even social networks are inflamed. On Tik Tok last January, more than 8 million users displayed the mention #MillenialsVSGenZ after the publication of a video advising to burn or cut slim jeans.

On the mass-market side, Sabrina Pelissier, from the trend consultancy Leherpeur Paris, analyzes: “For several seasons, the mum jean has replaced the slim as the main silhouette. But for these brands, the slim is still a must-have pant. It is still offered but is no longer highlighted on silhouettes, on windows…” In 2020, if at Mango, H&M and Pull & Bear, it is the slim cuts that still dominate the shelves. At Zara and Uniqlo, only a third is now reserved for them.

From the "twig" to the body-positive

Breakthroughs in flare, mum, straight, baggy … An evolution that questions, but surprises few. Since its birth, the jean accompanies the social and cultural changes of each era. However, in history, the slim was born first “with the rock”, blows Sophie Lemahieu, fashion historian: “Especially with Mick Jagger in the 60s who wore it extremely tight. A scandalous gesture because these jeans will highlight his entire anatomy.

Very uncomfortable (elastane did not yet exist), it will be necessary to wait until the 2000s for slim to impose itself. From the Strokes to Pete Doherty, this style of pants becomes a strong symbol of the various protest rock circles ” propelled then by it-girls as Kate Moss. It is quickly associated with a female body without too much shape, thin or even skinny.” Skinny jeans flooded the market and became the basic that Millenials no longer wanted to part with (they fought for a long time to fit into them.)

Yet for Gen Z, the rock scene has run its course. The trend agency Leharpeur observes: “Cool is now linked to the 90s, carried by hip hop, rap but also the skateboarding world.

The cuts are then wider, until the trend of baggy among the youngest. And now, young people refuse to be afflicted with a single female slim silhouette. The standards of the body changed “We are in a movement of body-positive.” Certainly, the new icons often remain thin but also have hips, buttocks … Morphologies not always highlighted by the slim jeans.

For Domitille, one of the creators of the young brand Soeur: “The goal is no longer to run towards a thin silhouette, it must be harmonious. Floating a little in your clothes makes you look better. You can feel when someone is tight and it’s immediately less aesthetic.”

The search for authentic jeans

Even the young thirtysomethings, at the crossroads of generation Y and Z seem to be switching.

They have become addicted to the 501, carried by the vintage trend: “They have this look a little more woman, that of a girl who already works. A straighter silhouette that is less common in the big brands. Very worn by Jeanne Damas, Imparfaite, Sézanne”, explains the trend firm. A search for a more authentic jean in an era where the choice is infinite. The natural materials have the coast and elastane (very present in slims) becomes the enemy. 1% in 501, almost not at Soeur or Rouje.

A fashion that, by the way, is good for the planet because with more than 5% elastane in a pair of jeans, it is impossible to recycle.

« Rock’n’roll never dies » ?

Let’s be pragmatic, with its reassuring rock codes, the slim jeans is not ready to disappear and remains (very well) worn by some personalities like Lou Doillon, Caroline de Maigret or Charlotte Gainsbourg who has even designed one for Zara. During the last fashion shows, we also note a return of the slim silhouette: tight leather pants at Celine, red lycra suit at Yves St Laurent, XXL thigh-highs at Givenchy … A return of the slim but without the jeans?