Smith, Tight Squeeze, WSJ, Sept. 2006.
“Tight Squeeze: Making Room For a New Men's Fashion .”
RAY A. SMITH
Levi's and Gap Accommodate the Trend; Spandex Adds a Little Stretch
Doug Black has found himself in a tight squeeze more times than he cares to remember. One
day, he got caught in the rain without an umbrella and was unable to run. When his colleagues
sat in a circle, the 23-year-old English teacher from Portland, Ore., couldn't cross his legs. And
when he tried to jaywalk, while in Beijing for work, he couldn't hop the median divider with his
"I had to walk half a mile down the street on my own to use the crosswalk," he says.
His jeans were too tight. But he has no plans to buy a looser style. "Discomfort comes with the
territory," he says.
Skinny jeans, with tapered legs and narrow-peg ankles, seemed like a flash in the pan when they
appeared in stores a few years ago. They seemed more suited to women. Today, though, sales of
men's skinny jeans are going strong, and mass brands Gap and Levi's are getting in on the action.
Explanations abound for why men would want to wear jeans that look so uncomfortable and
impractical. Some fashion observers say skinny jeans' tight hold on certain men stems in part
from the wearers' desire to show off their gym-sculpted bodies. Then, too, denim brands,
retailers and men's fashion magazines have relentlessly promoted skinny jeans. And pop stars
like Justin Timberlake and Kanye West, by wearing skinny jeans, have given something
resembling permission for style-conscious young men to wear them.
But men are discovering, as women have long known, that the style can be unforgiving. One