I still remember how I felt when I tried on my first pair of Landlubber jeans around 1969 when I was in the 7th or 8th grade: transformed. Now, I can't even recall what kind of pants I wore prior to that. (Danskins? Those childish, stretchy precursors to today's yoga pants?) It was as if those magnificent denim hip-huggers erased everything that had gone before, including my innocence. I think I paid around $14 for them at Poor Richard's, the hippie store in Red Bank, New Jersey, where James Taylor and Carole King records repeated endlessly on the turntable.
I became keenly aware of how the low-rise accentuated the new curve of my hips and backside.
My walk suddenly developed a swaying motion that was accentuated by the billowing bellbottoms. I also felt that I instantly belonged. By dressing like the "cool girls," I became one.
We all wore our jeans the same way, overly long, with boy's basketball sneakers-- which meant we stepped on the hems and frayed them. We often paired them with form-fitting ribbed "poor-boy" turtlenecks and wool CPO (chief petty officer) jackets which we bought at the Army/Navy store. A school uniform indeed.
In high school, Landlubbers were out and it was all about Levis 501s. The more faded, ripped up and patched, the better. We wore them with peasant blouses and Dr. Scholl's sandals. One pair of mine had an American flag sewn on the ass and flowers embroidered on the leg. I wore them to a Grateful Dead/Allman Brothers concert in D.C. Later, when the zipper broke, I laced up the fly with a strip of rawhide. Eventually, they became so patched that there was little denim left and they bit the dust. It was a very sad day.
By the time I entered college, the disco era was upon us (unfortunately). Tight, high-waisted styles were all the rage. We wore them with tube tops and platforms while dancing the night away to Donna Summer and Earth, Wind and Fire.
After graduation, when I moved to New York City, I discovered the downtown scene on Saint Mark's Place and in Alphabet City. Grunge, New Wave and Rockabilly music blasted in the underground clubs where we hung out until the wee hours in our skinny black jeans, Wayfarers and high-top sneakers (again!), chain-smoking and acting indifferent. Acid-wash was also big at that time, but that was never my jean of choice.
In the '90s, I was married and a mother and I really can't remember what type of jeans I wore! Definitely not "mom jeans," but probably something inexpensive and generic like Gap straight-legs. I was too busy with two babies and a full-time job to take notice of denim trends. My head was spinning with "the Ferber method" (a famous pediatrician's advice about how to get infants to go to sleep), the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Sesame Street songs.
Sometime after the millennium, maybe in the mid-aughts, when I was fashion director at InStyle magazine, "premium denim" emerged as a trend (translation: crazy expensive jeans from indie brands): J Brand, 7 for all Mankind, True Religion, etc. Simultaneously, indie bands like the Strokes, the White Stripes and Kings of Leon seemed to come out of nowhere. Every week, there was a new cool brand--or band--that you just had to know about. The "peanut rise" (a 3" zipper) became a thing, and the "muffin top" (overflowing hips) and "whale tale" (thong panties showing above the super-low waistbands) were born... I learned that following trends was a young woman's game, after all.
For the past 10 years or so, it has been all about the "skinny jean," which works for women of all ages and many shapes. It looks like it's here to stay. But the denim world never sleeps. So, what's the cool jean in 2016? Almost all of the above styles are currently available and more! There are flare-legs, micro-flares and cropped-flares; toothpicks, "jeggings," boyfriend-styles and culottes; dark, bleached, lacquered and destroyed washes; butt-lifting, tummy-controlling and contouring fits; ripped, frayed, patched, embroidered and studded styles. To cuff or not to cuff, that is the question...the options are as varied as what we listen to on Pandora.
What's a grown woman to do? In my opinion, you can't go wrong with a classic 501, a skinny jean or a trouser style in a dark wash. But if Xtreme-shredded jeans are calling to you, go for it!
Shop a selection of some of the best current styles at Apprécier.