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The Return of Indie Sleaze Is Causing Skinny-Jean Panic

Just when you thought your calves could breathe again

It would seem the obituaries for skinny jeans were premature (mine included). Because last month, no less of an authority than Harper’s Bazaar declared that indie sleaze was already back. Five days later, Vogue asked: “Are You Ready for the Return of Indie Sleaze?” In the article, writer Alex Kessler credited TikTok trend forecaster Mandy Lee with reviving the 15-year-old subculture.

Moreover, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett recently wrote in The Guardian that she “saw a man in skinny jeans and winklepickers the other day, and found myself transported back to a time when I cared about men’s shoes.”

Beyond skinny jeans and winklepickers, Vogue defines indie sleaze as “a messy amalgam of 1990s grunge and 1980s opulence with a slightly erotic undertone, topped off with an almost pretentious take on retro style.” If you’re still not sure what that means, just picture the members of The Strokes and their raggedy, rock ‘n’ roll attire that looked as though it had been perpetually steam-pressed with cigarette smoke — a look that not everyone is ready to re-embrace.

“Oh come on, I’ve just recently gotten rid of my last two pairs of skinny jeans, now they’re coming back already?” one subscriber to the Male Fashion Advice subreddit lamented. Responding to the Vogue story, another complained, “Ugh, and I was just getting enough income to buy millennium Y2K futurist fits!”

Attempting to find a silver lining, a different commenter wrote, “I don’t think this trend necessarily means the return of skinny everything. My bet is we’re still in for a good long while of relaxed/loose fits, and the new ‘indie sleaze’ will be reinterpreted to include that.”

To that end, others on the subreddit were quick to point out that it was a few years before the original indie sleaze movement became synonymous with skinny jeans. “Plus, the early days of this (The Strokes, Interpol, all the ‘the’ bands) massively overlapped with the baggy heavier-rock/metal era to the point where they were almost two separate fashion scenes,” another MFA subscriber attempting to look on the (Mr.) bright side notes. “Skinny only really came on in a big way as metal turned more toward emo/scene stuff, and the indie look seemed to coalesce and take over everything.”

Whether skinny jeans are actually back — or if they ever really left at all — doesn’t even matter. The trend cycles are so accelerated these days that it’s probably best that you never relinquish them. A TikToker will make them a hip fit again soon enough. 

The skinny jean is dead, long live the skinny jean.