The Argument: Skinny vs Baggy

Zia Haffejee and Siki Msuseni argue their choice in jeans

Illustration: Dale Scogings

An Aussie woman was hospitalised and had to have her ultra-tight skinnies cut off after she fainted due to nerve problems that developed in her legs. The Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry picked up on the incident, calling it “bilateral peroneal and tibial neuropathies as a result of squatting” and issued a warning. Now before you toss out all of your skinnies, the woman, who suffered foot numbness while walking home and fell, forcing her to crawl to the side of the road and hail a taxi to the hospital, was only the 13th reported case of a medical problem caused by too-tight jeans. There are, probably, more fatalities attributed to jeans with too much sag – you know, escalators and things. So whether your denim style is becoming more extroverted with volume the name of your game, or if you prefer a more tailored silhouette, remember, both looks can kill.

Here are two of our brightest young stars, Zia Haffejee and Siki Msuseni, arguing for slimfit and baggy jeans.

The story goes that wildcat rapper Danny Brown was on the cusp of signing a dream deal with 50 Cent’s G-Unit Records. There was, however, one little problem: Fiddy felt Brown’s skinny jeans didn’t exactly scream ‘G-Unit Soldier’. In fact, he disliked them so much that the Detroit rapper ended up not getting the deal. That happened in 2010. Today, it’s hard to imagine something as petty as the slender cut of someone’s jeans – now a ubiquitous style choice – getting in the way of a fancy record deal despite obvious talent. Especially when slim-jean wearing weirdos like Makonnen and Donald Glover are respected figures in contemporary music. But what’s the beef with skinny jeans, anyhow? From the eyeliner wearing mod-rockers of the 60s to the sock-packing cock-rock of the late 70s and 80s, men in tight jeans have always been associated with rebellion. This is because the traditional conception of masculinity understands a complete departure from femininity to be its bedrock, and fitting denim is traditionally associated with women. Thanks to music-influenced trends, they have always stocked sex appeal, but, in the last 20 years or so (largely owed to the regrettable baggy jeans wave created by 90s hip-hop), skinny jeans have been a far from accessible cut for the average heterosexual dude thanks to the amplified ‘stigma’ of femininity attached to them. In the last few years, however, things have changed up quite a bit. Danny Brown isn’t the only rapper dressing like a rocker, gender lines are being blurred and androgynous fashion is in: brands like American Apparel are big on unisex clothes, even up-and-coming local streetwear labels like Young & Lazy are following suit. The average heterosexual male has had to re-evaluate his idea of what masculinity actually means in 2015. A good starting point is the following sartorial epiphany: skinny jeans, or slimmer cut jeans in general, are no longer a controversial choice.

In fact, slim jeans should be your go-to cut. Not only are they with the times, but they are scientifically proven to look about a million times better than your baggy tent-pants. Don’t believe the myth that you have to be a stick to wear them: find the right pair and they will accentuate your body in all the right ways. They don’t have to be uber-tight, either. You just have to find the pair that feels best for you. Fortunately, major retailers have cottoned-on (so to speak) to the changing tide and you don’t need necessarily need to go to Diesel to find a pair that will look good on you. Nowadays, it’s all about curating your own, idiosyncratic image. Skinny jeans are no longer a daring statement piece but rather a denim cut that is free of traditional masculine hang-ups. It’s a cut that unashamedly moulds to your body, free of pretence, just as denim should.

“Does my butt look big in these jeans?” Perhaps that’s not the question I should be asking you halfway through winter (and our comfort food diets). But this has been the question that has resulted in my four pairs of skinny jeans being crumpled to the back of my wardrobe never to be seen again unless I decide to go on the most-talked about Kayla Itsines 12 week-bikini body workout plan (just the thought of the challenge gives me an anxiety attack). My pair of boyfriend jeans has been reworked and gladly replaced the high-waisted ankle grazer skinnies. Don’t mistake my decision for a second-best resort. I’ve always loved me a pair of boyfriend jeans, the type that Jenna Lyons (J Crew creative director and president) effortlessly wears, cropped or tapered at the ankle. Before resorting to my trusted boyfriend jeans I went through a month-long denial period. My cheeks have shown the signs of weight-gain but I refused to accept it, and much to my dismay my lower body showed the same signs. See, for the most of us, choosing to go tight or wide has a lot to do with our psychological state of mind (speak for yourself Siki), and how happy we are with our physical selves. It’s all an emotionally debilitating situation. I remember sitting through a two-hour-long meeting wearing my high-waist skinnies, and half way through my top button was undone intentionally and my zip was halfway undone, all because of the discomfort of no blood circulation, when the one chairing the meeting was wise enough to call me out to make lunch reservations outside the boardroom. That did not end well. I got up, forgetting my undone jeans with the whole group of people looking at me with faces filled with confusion and a tinge of embarrassment. That was the day I swore to myself never to wear a tight fitting pair of skinnies, that type that clogs your arteries. Now that I have decided to permanently go wide wearing my boyfriend jeans it gives me much room to breathe and move around. Neatly turned-up and tapered at the ankles to give me a slim appeal, elongating my legs in a pair of court heels coupled with a structured blazer, I have yet regained my boardroom respect and streetstyle cred. We could even give it that street lingo and call if the boyfie-jeans. After all, my butt does not look that big in my boyfie-jeans, it was just the wrong style of denim I selected, I’m not Kim Kardashian after all.