The Jeans That Incited an Existential Debate at Man Repeller (Obviously)

Ever since I started doing market research for an upcoming story on fall basics, a certain cut and wash of jean has been following me around the internet via targeted ad. The advertised pants are usually not the same brand, but they all share an important rare quality that makes me want to click. On a few occasions, I have, which goes against my personal policy to not click ads that are too on point, for fear that I’m behaving as predicted and no longer maintain agency. (Red pill or blue pill?) Anyway, I posed a question about the jeans to MR’s editorial team, the most passionate denim enthusiasts I know. Below is the conversation that unfolded, which I’m sharing here as a means to ask you one simple question: Are you in or are you out?

Haley: Q for my special someones. Been mulling on this idea for a story. Last year Harling lamented that there was no single denim trend, that in fact, everything was seemingly trending at the same time. That’s probably still true (I think that can be comforting?), but curious if you agree there is a budding response in the form of BETWEENSY JEANS, i.e. jeans that fall right in the middle of every single trend and are, thus, the most regular jeans ever. Is anyone else seeing these everywhere? Example here! Could this be the new trend? Because I want some.

Amelia: I think we’ve cycled through (in the last few years, particularly) every decade of denim — good and bad — not just for the sake of trends, but because SECRETLY, jean designers were trying to figure out an algorithm for what actually makes the perfect pair of jeans. These in-betweensy jeans (lol) have the high waist of the 70s, the straight thigh-to-knee of the 90s, the bootcut of the early 00s, the stiffness of like, the first jeans ever made — but mixed with the stretch of whenever “stretch” came into play.

Leandra: Betweensies jeansies! They’re not long, but they’re not cropped. They’re not ripped, but they maintain whiskers. They’re not dark, but they’re not light…they are the denim manifestation of having your cake and eating it too. The solution to finding yourself so paralyzed by choice that you make no choice at all, because in this jean, here it is, all laid out for you.

Haley: YES TO BOTH. Does that make these best jeans ever? Are these the real Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants pants?

Harling: Yeah, they are just as much an antidote to decision fatigue as they are an encapsulation of every possible jean-related decision you might make.

Nora: I know I have a tendency to stay too long in a denim trend because I feel comfortable, but something about a slight bootcut still feels like such a choice — meaning to me these jeans lack full neutrality. But I guess neutral and perfect aren’t the same?

Haley: But isn’t a bootcut kind of neutral in that it’s between wide and skinny and flared?

Harling: I’m not sure I would even describe them as bootcut. Maybe a generous straight leg?

Amelia: They are classic bootcut! It means the jeans literally fit over a pair of cowboy boots. I think the difference between these and the old bootcut is the waist. These ones have a high-waist; the bootcuts that haunt my own personal ’00 jean nightmares are low-rise. And worn with pumps.

Haley: Also for the record: Just confirmed the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants pants were fully betweensy jeans. I feel like I’ve solved a riddle

Haling: We should mass produce those.

Emma: I would just like to point out that betweensy jeans are the perfect jeans for Geminis. We are notoriously indecisive.

Harling: Question: when you wear non-betweensy jeans that fall into a particular trend bucket, like cropped or bell bottom or super distressed or vintage Levi’s, how does it feel? For me it feels like my jeans are hijacking my whole outfit, when I just want them to be a neutral base.

Leandra: Yeah! I have been thinking a lot about how little I want my clothes to say for me lately, which might be the very biased pushing of an accessories-ridden agenda. But more and more, I don’t want my clothes to speak for me, and jeans historically are supposed to whisper — to prop you up, but not hit you over the head with personality.

Haley: I’ve become obsessed with fit, and the idea that if I just have a small number of simple clothes that fit perfectly and properly, I will be free.

Leandra: Free from decision paralysis? From wasting time having to think about what makes you feel whole and good and just knowing what does that out of the gates? It’s so empowering, right? To know specifically what gives you the kind of agency you want responsibility for?

Haley: I think both and all of that. Free from the never-ending dissatisfaction poor-quality, ill-fitting, imperfectly-made clothing brings me. And how it limits my consciousness in that it distracts me.

Harling: I’ve been feeling that way too, Haley. I think for me it’s being freed from the cycle wherein I tire of my clothes so easily because they feel like trappings of my moods instead of core to who I am (and therefore acquired with a kind of gravitas).

Haley: Yes, exactly. It reminds me of the freedom I feel when I finally make peace with the fact that something isn’t for me, which happens more often and consistently as I age.

Leandra: I love how you say “as you age” as if you are dancing with menopause.

Haley: Lol. Betweensy jeans are the denim equivalent of ceasing experimentation in one category so you can free yourself up to experiment in others!

Emma: I know for me, to free myself from that cycle, I would go to a beloved pair of jeans as opposed to a pair that might fall into this betweensy non-category category.

Leandra: The thing about going to a beloved pair when you have evolved past them is that it can infer a dated truth about who you are.

Emma: I have certainly evolved past certain trends (no longer love those Angels jeans covered with glitter and known for their stretch!) but there is one pair that I’ve rocked with for over a decade. And who knows when I’ll retire them! They have consistently kept up with my evolving style and tastes.

Leandra: Ah, yes, that’s something else, Emma. That’s you having found a pillar of your personality, right? Which is SO relieving. It’s the exact work we’re talking about trying to do. But wait, Haley, to your point: I think a modern phenomenon that probably wasn’t true in previous decades is that we have more choice, more freedom and more agency than ever before — and a lot of the cultural emphasis on essentialism, good basics, etc., is a manifestation of how the freedom can actually be kind of limiting, right? So are betweensy jeansies actually just another Band-Aid we’re trying to use over a wound that needs stitches?

Harling: I think clothes that are core to who you are have the power to transcend permutations in taste. The other day read Leandra and Amelia’s “Should I Buy This” convo about “core clothes,” like a good sweater, and “experimental clothes,” like a sparkly top that you bought in 2015 or whatever. Maybe the reason jeans are so confusing right now is because they are supposed to be in the core clothes category but the number of options/styles out there has transitioned them into the “experimental clothes” category and it just feels…wrong? Betweensy jeans are nudging jeans back into core.

Leandra: Feels so wrong.

Harling: Sometimes I think it would be an interesting exercise to try to sort my closet into those two buckets
and see which pile is bigger (probably the experimental one).

Amelia: If these betweensy jeans become the ubiquitous jean style, then they’ll take on their own distinguishing look too. And they’ll become known as “those 2018 jeans.” Not that trends can’t still become core/timeless. Like those high-waist wide-leg floods — the Rachel Comey legion/Kamm sailor pants. Those were ultimately trendy, but also, I’d bet there’s a huge group of people who have decided those are their forever-jeans, like when you decide on your forever-haircut.

Haley: That’s really interesting. What makes these jeans any different from vintage Levi’s in their core-ness? Because vintage Levi’s are still everywhere, and their regularness was essentially what made them popular.

Emma: Modernization?

Harling: Vintage Levi’s became a trend in their own right. What initially made them regular ultimately became what made them seem distinguishing.

Leandra: Are we describing normcore?

Harling: Probably the intent of normcore, but not what it amounted to (which was a caricature of itself).

Emma: Maybe the essentialism/good basics trend is attempting to create a boilerplate for personal style.

Leandra: Now we’re talking about identifying the products we can call “evergreen” about our style.

Haley: When I really think about it, my love of these jeans has something to do with me wanting to focus on other things beyond my pants.

Emma: You know what I’m wondering, though? If nostalgia has anything to do with these jeans. Like, all the gesturing towards former trends without making the FULL CHOICE. The jeans might not signal a trend to the world at large, but they signal many trends oh so subtly, to us, the people choosing to wear them.

Haley: Maybe betweensy jeans are just another way of signaling that you know what’s up, albeit very subtly…

Leandra: Or maybe! Just maybe! They’re just…jeans.

Leandra: JK, impossible.

Harling: “Just jeans” is def the slogan for betweensy jeans, though.

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman is the Features Director at Man Repeller.

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