If you see a young man walking down the street, pants undone, it’s probably not a “check your zipper” situation.
After Thanksgiving dinner or a practical orientation on a pregnant belly after your uncle’s birth, sporting unbuttoned jeans has become a fashion statement.
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Katie Pettit, 20, a model from Orlando, Florida, visited New York this month for her first Fashion Week runway booking. The gig fell through, but she still wanted to make an impression when she walked down the street and joined the party.
She enlisted the help of Marila Ortega, a stylist, who helped her select a lacy black lingerie top with an oversized pair of Levi’s high-loose jeans unbuttoned and folded.
She wasn’t worried about a wardrobe malfunction.
“It looked a little baggy and bulky but I didn’t have to worry about a little accident,” Pettit said. “The zipper fell a little, but my pants didn’t.”
Emma McClendon, an assistant professor of fashion studies at St. John’s University, sees unbuttoned jeans as a liminal style amid the full return to high-waisted pants and low-rise cuts.
“It’s something that reflects the general hysteria about whether low-rise jeans are coming back,” McClendon said with a laugh. “It’s experimenting without dipping into low-rise genes.”
“General hysteria” may be hyperbole, but the long-predicted return of Y2K’s louche celebrity culture and all things ultra-low-waisted – by those of us who’ve seen Alexander McQueen’s “bumster” jeans – has led to many media interventions. From runway in-joke to early 2000s cultural phenomenon.
Many people find low-rise jeans flattering on a small number of women with very flat stomachs. “Please don’t let us go back to low-rise jeans,” pleaded a headline at the top of a Vogue article by Molly Jung-Fast last October.
But some women who were born during the boom of the early 2000s feel differently.
“For people with more of an oblong body, it adds this extra fold to the pants that adds a curve to the hips and creates an hourglass shape,” says Prisha Jain, an 18-year-old freshman studying economics at New York University. .
Tess McNulty, 18, a film student also in her first year at NYU, said the style can be accessible to a wide range of bodies.
“I think there’s a new wave of people saying, ‘Wear what you want, curves look good, you don’t have to have a flat stomach to wear low-waisted jeans,'” she said, using slightly more colorful language.
McNulty recently wore his jeans unbuttoned on his way to pick up free ice cream for NYU students in Washington Square Park. She sees the style as a way to embrace a slogan she saw on TikTok: “Your clothes shouldn’t fit you, your clothes should fit you.”
“You don’t have to feel bad if your pants don’t fit,” she said. “Wear them unbuttoned and it’s sexy and cool.”
Sophie Flores, 25, an early adopter of buttonless jeans, agrees.
“If you wear something with confidence, people who see you will absorb your confident energy, and I can assure you they will think, ‘Damn … they look amazing!'” Flores wrote in an email from her home in West Hollywood, California. He also added that Y2K nostalgia was a big part of the trend’s appeal.
“It’s seen unbuttoned jeans and thongs since 2018 with people like Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner,” said Valerie Steele, a fashion historian who works at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
McClendon sees a connection to a larger historical arc.
“It reminds me of the original low-rise jeans, which were in the 1960s,” he said. He likens the current taste for distorted waistbands — including the dress slacks seen at Frankie’s Shop in New York — to hippies cutting off their waistbands with scissors.
“If you think about mood jeans and lace with flowers, it was playing with this ’60s aesthetic that was about breaking down and showing off the body,” McClendon said, referring to two jeans brands that were popular. Early aughts
Could part of the appeal be embracing a look that confuses older generations?
McNulty doesn’t think so. “Maybe when you’re 13,” she winked. “It doesn’t really apply to me.”
Still, a selfie she shared on her family’s group chat in which she was wearing her jeans unbuttoned and rolled down provoked a reaction from her parents.
“They have an ‘exclamation point’ response to it,” he said.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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