Introduced in the 1950’s, skinny jeans were first worn by film stars like Roy Rogers, Lone Ranger, Cisco Kid, Zorro, Gene Autry, Marilyn Monroe, and Sandra Dee. Known for its thigh hugging, form fitting silhouette- skinny jeans tapper at the ankle and are widely recognized for its slim cut that exudes sex appeal. By the 1960’s, women began pushing gender roles by widely adopting slim cut denim and other male dominated fashion statements. Skinny jeans served as a means of communicating gender empowerment and equality through channeling female sexuality while drawing attention to feminine curves. Skinny jeans epitomized both sexuality and sex appeal when Elvis, the king of rock n’ roll, began wearing them during his tantalizing performances in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. During the 1970’s, skinny jeans became synonymous with a ‘bad boy’ rock n’ roll image and served as a uniform staple for fashion-forward rockers in the alternative music industry.
Rock band legends like Mick Jagger from The Rolling Stones and The Beatles also helped paved the way for the skinny jean phenomenon through fusing fashion with performance/entertainment.
The 1970’s set the British punk rock movement in motion- where self-proclaimed ‘scenester’ bands like The Clash, The Sex Pistols and The Ramones put a notorious punk spin on the growing skinny jean trend. Through incorporating dark color palettes, leather and zipper embellishments, the punk rock movement was the first fashion wave to truly individualize and stylize slim cut denim. In 1971, fashion designer, Vivienne Westwood, opened SEX (Boutique), one of the fist stores to ever specialize in punk and fetish-inspired clothing. Never before had a retail boutique been solely dedicated to selling skinny jeans and other British ‘scenester’ attire- bringing slim cut denim to the masses. Tight fitted clothing like skinny jeans functioned as a form of rebellion for fashion-conscious nonconformists in the 1970’s. Skinny jeans’ fashion uprising was sustained well into the 1980’s with the origination of movements surrounding heavy metal and glam metal. Bands like Poison, Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi, Guns N’ Roses and Kiss were prominent in the 1980’s and all donned skinny jeans along with other form fitting bottoms such as spandex during their concert performances.
The skinny jeans trend made a steep declined in the 1990’s with the advancement of hip hop and grunge music. Both grunge and hip hop dictated a uniform consisting of baggy jeans, flannel shirts and over sized outerwear- starkly contrasting the considerably contoured fashion trends of the 1970’s and 1980’s. In 2000, skinny jeans made a comeback thanks to fashion icon, Kate Moss, garage rock and the formation of indie rock in popular music culture. Moss, who once dated Peter Doherty of The Libertines, was photographed with Doherty dressed in skinny jeans and boots- letting fashionistas around the world know that wearing skinny jeans was once again appropriate for daily attire. The overlapping trends within the fashion and music industry is undeniable, and the history of skinny jeans greatly exemplifies this widespread notion. Today, the appeal of skinny jeans has reached other industries that have little to do with fashion and music. While many find skinny jeans to be rather restricting, professional skate borders and BMX bike riders prefer sporting skinny jeans due to their stretchy material that accommodates movement and flexibility.