Personal Essay: Ode to the Boot-cut Jean

by Abigail Malik

jeansRack after rack of jeans fills my local Goodwill store, a sea of discarded, heavy denim to wade through in search of a good-enough pair. Shopping makes my arms hurt, as my left one holds try-ons and my right one screeches hangers rhythmically down the line. To the left, away you go – wrong size, weird color, too long.

And boot cut. Mostly, they’re all boot cut. On one hand, the sad thrift-store sea of discarded boot-cut jeans is puzzling – what exactly is wrong with that style? It clearly used to get a lot of love. On the other hand, it doesn’t matter why they’re there en masse because they now present themselves as an opportunity to the forward thinker: buy a bunch and hoard them until the style returns.

And the style, like so many others, will come back, raging and loud, perhaps just as strong as the skinny-leg fad it feels like we’ve been experiencing for quite some time.

Unaware of it until recently, I’ve been sort of preparing for this revolution. Folded reverently in a dresser drawer at home is a pair of 2001 Calvin Klein’s: dark blue denim, the most flattering back pockets you could imagine, and boot cut. I even remember saving the money to buy them at the mall that summer after high-school graduation. During my first year of college, I rocked them almost every day, and then, as happens sometimes, they started to feel a little too tight. But I kept them; something in the back of my mind whispered, “Just in case.” More than a decade later, having toted them from city to city and season to season, they fit again. They look good.

Except, of course, for the legs. Those poor Calvin’s seem almost bell-bottomed compared to the straight-leg pants folded on top of them in my dresser drawer. Sorry, Brooke Shields, but something has come between me and my Calvin’s.

Depending on whom you ask or what you read, this most-recent skinny-leg jean fad (that is, since the 1980s punk-era fad) has been in mainstream culture since around 2005. Yet it has hit cultural saturation, it seems, in just the past couple of years. It’s a level of saturation that makes you grumble “Oh, come on!” when you can’t find a pair of jeans that will stretch over a strong, muscled calf you once thought was an asset.

In these moments, I look longingly toward my bedroom, where my 13-year-old Calvin’s rest, nestled snugly between newer pairs of denim. A decade from now, I wonder, how many 30-somethings will sort through a sea of consignment skinny jeans, arms aching, and think, “What in the world…?” before pushing them on down the rack.

Maybe, Brooke, I should wiggle back into my Calvin’s. Maybe the time for a boot-cut revolution is now.