The New York Times
If you happen to see a young man walking down the street with his pants open, it’s probably not due to inattention to the zipper.
In the past, the sort of thing big uncles used to do after overeating at Thanksgiving dinner, or as a practical response to pregnancy, going outside in unbuttoned jeans has now become a fashion statement.
Model Katie Pettit, 20, of Orlando, Florida, visited New York this month for what would be her first runway show at Fashion Week. The show was cancelled, but she still wanted to make an impression by walking the streets and going to parties.
Pettit asked stylist Mariela Ortega for help, who advised her on selecting a black lacy lingerie top, paired with Levi’s High Loose jeans that were oversized, unbuttoned and at the waist.
Pettit wasn’t worried about any costume mishaps. “The jeans were a little baggy and too big, but not to the point where I had to worry about any small accidents,” she said. “The zipper came down a little, but my pants didn’t come off.”
Emma McClendon, assistant professor of fashion studies at St. John’s, sees unbuttoned jeans as a midway style between high-waisted pants and a full-on return to low-waisted jeans.
“It’s a reflection of the widespread hysteria about whether or not low-rise jeans are coming back,” McClendon said, laughing. “It’s an experience you can do without diving into low-rise jeans.”
“General hysteria” may be hyperbole, but the long-prophesied return of all the turn-of-the-millennium trends — like a touch of squalor in celebrity culture and the prevalence of super-low-rise jeans — has caused a lot of media anxiety among those of us. that we saw Alexander McQueen’s bumster jeans transform from a runway joke into a cultural phenomenon in the early 2000s.
A lot of people find low-waisted jeans flattering for just a few women, those with flat abs. The title of an article by Molly Jong-Fast published in last October’s issue of Vogue magazine pleaded “please let’s not go back to low-rise jeans.”
But some women who were born in the early 2000s, the height of low-waisted jeans, take a different approach.
“For people who have more rectangular bodies, it adds an extra fold to the pants, creates a curve in the hips and gives the body that hourglass shape,” said Prisha Jain, 18, who is doing her first year of economics at the University of New York.
Tess McNulty, 18, a film student also in her first year at New York University, said the style could be accessible to a wider range of bodies.
“I think there’s a new breed of people who think that everyone should wear what they want, curves are good, and you don’t have to have a flat stomach to wear low-rise jeans,” she said, using a little more colorful expressions.
McNulty recently went out in his jeans unbuttoned to pick up a free ice cream offered to NYU students in Washington Square Park. She sees the style as a way of embracing a slogan she saw on TikTok: “You don’t have to adapt to your clothes; they have to adapt to you.”
“You don’t have to feel bad if your pants don’t fit,” she said. “Wear them unbuttoned and it will be sexy and cool.” Sophie Flores, 25, one of the early adopters of unbuttoned jeans, agreed.
“If you wear anything with confidence, people who see it will absorb that confident energy, and I can guarantee they’ll think, wow, that looks amazing on her,” Flores, who lives in West Hollywood, Calif., said via email. She added that nostalgia for the turn of the millennium also accounted for much of the trend’s appeal.
“It’s been around since 2018, when people like Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner were photographed with jeans unbuttoned and showing off thongs,” said Valerie Steele, a fashion historian at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
McClendon sees a connection to a longer historical arc. “It reminds me more of the original low-rise jeans that came out in the 1960s,” she said. The researcher compared the current taste for deconstructed waistlines — which includes dress pants she saw at the Frankie Shop in New York — to hippies, who used scissors to remove the waist band from their pants.
“If you think of the Mudd Jeans and the Flowery Leis, they both played with this ’60s aesthetic, which involved breaking down barriers and showing more of the body,” McClendon said, referring to two denim brands that were popular in the early 1990s. of 2000.
Could part of the appeal be the adoption of a look that baffles older generations? McNulty doesn’t believe that. “Maybe for a 13-year-old,” she said, rolling her eyes. “But it doesn’t really apply to me.”
Still, a photo she shared on her family’s chat group, which showed her wearing unbuttoned jeans and bent down at the waist, provoked a response from her parents. “They reacted with that exclamation point,” McNulty said.
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