I have gotten countless DMs asking me to verify a certain rumor that has been circulating on the internet for a few weeks now: Are skinny jeans dead? I thought for sure this would die down because it’s an absurd opinion made popular by those menacing, Tik Tok-ing youths who have found joy and comfort in our middle-school cast offs claiming them as their own.* (Honestly though– keep the bucket hats, we good.) But I’ve decided it’s time to speak my truth on this situation. The short answer, in my not so humble opinion, is NO, skinny jeans are not dead. Skinny jeans have been around for longer than a decade and in that time they have been perfected by the denim industry. (I’m looking at you, high waisted skinny jeans with stretch.) *chef’s kiss* Why would we throw out a good thing now?

However, I have a theory as to why this generation hates skinny jeans; hear me out. Think about the years that these kids were growing up — say around 2010 they were in middle school. And what did they wear? Skinny jeans and leggings. That’s what was in style and in stores so that’s what they wore. From middle school to high school, they wore skinny jeans only; it was their only option really. Well now they are coming into their own, into their young adult years and want to find a style that feels different than that of their youth. They want independence from their childhood, including style. I 100% understand that. In fact, that’s why we found solace in skinny jeans — finally we had a pair of denim that didn’t drag on the floor, that had stretch in them and could be worn with virtually any pair of shoes. The skinny jean for us millennials was a breathe of fresh air to our overworked Gap ‘Long and Leans’; this skinny jean style felt new, exciting and cool. I still remember my first pair that I bought in 2007 from Gap. The fit was not at all right but I knew this skinny jean style was on to something. In fact, skinny jeans transformed a whole industry. The denim industry saw a huge opportunity with this new style and sales for denim sky rocketed to $90 billion in 2019. Skinny jeans accounted for 48% of all women’s denim sales in 2018. (resource linked) The point? We love our skinny jeans. But the next generation is ready for something new and that’s fair. If you think about it, so were we and we brought an entire industry with us.

I, for one, have purchased plenty of non-skinny jeans in the past 2 years so I’ve had some time to think about this quandary. To give up our collection of skinny jeans would mean to give up our collection of tops and tunics. Skinny jeans are not just built into our wardrobe, rather we’ve built an entire wardrobe around the skinny jean aesthetic. It’s just a fact that long, loose tunics and wide leg jeans do not mix as well as a skinny jeans do. Mom jeans call for more fitted or cropped tops that can create the hourglass look high-waist denim begs for. For us to toss out all skinny jeans on the whim that they are now ‘dead’ would be to empty out or closets and drawers, leaving us millennials without the trusted closets that we’ve curated for years now.

The long answer is: Skinny jeans aren’t dead, but perhaps it is time for other denim styles to enter the chat. Of course there is room for everyone at the table which I why I found 5 alternatives that I like to wear when I’m wanting a different look than skinny jeans.

But first, I’m gonna start with the old standby and classic…The Skinny Jean.

The Skinny Jean

This pair is one of my favorites from Good American. It’s stretchy, it’s flattering, it’s high waisted but not restricting and it doesn’t flatten my booty. All signs point to yes with this pair of jeans. A classic dark hue, this pair of skinny jeans really does do it all — tee shirt and sneakers, blouse and heels, sweater and booties. There is no outfit this pair of denim can’t touch. For this reason, skinny jeans will always have a place in my closet. And my heart.

Good American Skinny Jeans

Madewell High Rise Roadtripper Jeans

1 / Ballon Jeans

I would categorize this jean as a ‘bold choice’, if we are being honest. I really like the idea of this style, but it is definitely taking a minute for me to completely wrap my head around the style. Balloon jean, dad jean, barrel jean. There are a lot of names for this style, but what you are looking for here is a roomy but not wide leg, fitted waist and and barely tapered towards the bottom. Not quite a straight leg, not a skinny. I would say this is an Advanced level of denim, if you are looking to level up on the denim trend, this is it. If you are new to non-skinny jeans, keep scrolling for more options.

(I wear the 28 in this pair of jeans. If you wanted them to ride a bit lower towards your hips, size up one for a more relaxed look.)

Madewell Balloon Jean (shown here)

Gap High Rise Barrel Jean 

Levi’s Loose High Waist Taper Jean 

Agolde 90s Mid-Rise Loose Jeans

Topshop Ripped Dad Jeans

2 / Ribcage Straight Leg Jeans

This is a wonderful option if you are looking for a non-skinny jean alternative and love a relaxed fit. This look is the Levi’s Ribcage Straight Leg, a true straight leg. These hit me right at my ankle, so not quite cropped and I love the fit. They are high rise (hence the name ribcage) and the same lovely Levi’s denim and fit we know and love. Levi’s is as classic of a denim you can get, so this is a wonderful alternative that will give you lots of looks for years to come.

(I wear a 29 in this pair of Levi’s.) 

Levis’ Ribcage Straight Leg Jeans (shown here) 

Levi’s Ribcage Straight Leg Jeans in Blue

Gap High Rise Cheeky Straight Jeans

3 / Mom Jeans

If you are still skeptical but curious of the whole non-skinny jean trend, this is your pair. This is the classic ‘mom jean’ or simply the vintage jean, as some retailers call it. What you are looking at here is a high waist that accentuates your hips and features a slimmer straight leg. Madewell has a lot of this look and I find theirs to be the easiest to transition into non-skinny jeans. This is the Perfect Vintage Jean, and it really is.

(I am in the 28 of this pair. However, it runs generously, you can size down.) 

Madewell High Rise Vintage Jeans

AF High Rise Mom Jeans

AF Curve Love High Rise Mom Jeans

Jag Jeans Vintage Mom Jeans

4 / Straight Leg Vintage Jeans

This jean is a cross between the Ribcage Straight denim and a mom jean. The leg is not as tapered as a mom jean, but not as straight as the Ribcage jean. Their love child, the best of both worlds. This pair is a favorite from LOFT recently. Lots of stretch, super flattering and comfortable. Slight crop for spring, as well and this cut makes it easier to pair with low profile sneakers. This pair is another easy to transition into style for non-skinny jeans. No experience required. Another option for this look is the Levi’s Wedgie crop, I’ve linked it below.

(I wear the 28 in this pair of denim.) 

LOFT High Waist Straight Crop Jeans

Levi’s Wedgie Crop High Waist Jean

Gap High Rise Cheeky Straight Leg

5 / Wide Leg Jeans

Are you tired of me pushing these yet? I have found a recent peace with wide leg denim, or maybe it’s just this pair but I love them. I find them super chic and so easy to wear. I love this ivory hue as well, it’s almost easier to pair with items than a stark white or a wide leg denim. The white gives this more of a trouser feel than a pair of jeans. This pair rides a bit lower on my waist but are still a high waist, looser in the hips and the thighs. They are truly a perfect jean.  I love the look of wide leg because it is the antitheses of a skinny jean. I find that wearing heels with wide leg jeans fit my body best, but you can easily pair these pants with a low-profile sneaker as well.

(I am in the 29, they run TTS.)

LOFT Wide Leg Denim 

Mother Denim The Tomcat Ultra High Rise Wide Leg

AG Denim Etta Crop Wide Leg Jeans

What can we learn from Gen Z and perhaps, even from ourselves a decade ago? Try something new every once in a while and then feel the freedom to like what YOU like. If there’s anything I’ve learned from watching this generation it is their undying devotion to personal freedom of style and choice. Or *Aesthetics*, if we are being relevant. Finding comfort in the classics, like a nice pair of skinny jeans is great or finding a new style, like mom jeans, that you find out you love is great, too. Give a new style a try and let this fellow, elder millennial know how it goes. I think you might just find your new favorite pair of jeans.

*sarcasm implied. I love those Gen Z’s and their chaos. They keep me young. 

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26 Responses

  1. These all look great… but they all are cropped- what are those of us who live in a temperate climate supposed to do in the colder months?

    1. I personally wouldn’t wear cropped anything if it was cold out. I hate being cold! I wear cropped denim in the spring / summer / fall. I stick to skinny jeans (that cover my ankles) + boots in the colder months.

    1. I’m chuckling because now it seems like millennials feel like they invented skinny jeans. I’m at the very end of gen x, and we wore skinny jeans ALL the time in the mid 80s. There’s nothing new under the sun…..

  2. Short women need a longer Jean. We can’t wear high water jeans, it emphasizes how short our legs are. Every pair except the skinny Jean pictured above would look terrible on me. Thanks for including most of the population. Not.

    1. This post serves as a guide for people who WANT to branch out and try a different style of denim. You don’t have to leave your skinny jeans, I never said that. In fact, I said the opposite — I love skinny jeans and consider them a classic. I’m not saying this is Bible, I’m simply saying if you want to try something new, here are some styles I’ve tried and liked and yes — these are styles that work for the one and only body I’ve ever known which happens to be tall. Of course, all different body shapes and heights do need different styles, but I’ve always found that trying out new and different styles could surprise me in what ends up working.

  3. If you kids want waistbands to sit under your breasts, bless your hearts. Mom jeans be damned. They always looked dowdy and felt constricting. Lately I’ve been scoring mid-rise, straight legs at thrift stores, and am purring with bliss and comfort.

    1. Aw I wish I could do mid-rise!! My long torso + love handles say no lol. I’d love to score some vintage straight legs at a thrift, tell me your secrets 🙂

  4. As an eternally curvy girl, I remember my excitement when modern skinny jeans debuted. They are the absolute *most* flattering style that will ever grace a fuller figure. “Mom” jeans got that moniker because of the SNL ad—where the joke was that this style of jeans was awful for anyone who’s had their body changed by pregnancy or the stress of age/life. Personally, I think these new styles are for young and/or very thin people who have zero FUPA. Wake me up when bootcut jeans from Express come back. Now those I would consider.

    1. Yes!! I agree!! Those jeans are wonderful. I do have to admit to this: I still have 3 pair of my boot cut from Express and one flair. I haven’t worn them in some years now, but I can now!! I am 58yrs old. I can still fit in those jeans from Express. Thank you for reminding me that I have those jeans!! They are in mint condition! Running them to the dry cleaner’s today!! And it am never burying my skinny jeans!! I have long legs. They go from the floor all the way up to my……. The skinny jean IS my jean style! Great, great article!!

  5. What shirt i am going to wear dictates what style of jean looks best with it. High waist Skinny jeans are my most go to followed by bootcut, straight.
    Flares and bell bottoms I leave for teens and young adults.
    I’m more for comfort now.

  6. Comical that one generation feels so special that they believe they dictate style. They are in for a shock. Lol. I understand skinny jeans probably aren’t the choice among the z crowd. From what i see the generation is the most out of shape overweight group to come along in my memory. Skinny jeans look terrible on a body like that. So please wear your baggy pants. Do us all a favor.

    1. What a terribly negative thing to comment. Please, let everyone just wear whatever the hell they want and what they feel best in! Whether it be skinny jeans, bootcut or a pair of flare jeans. PS. I am Gen Y.

  7. I so appreciate this post! I’ve started to branch out to non-skinny jeans, but have had a hard time understanding the differences in how some of these styles will fit. Seeing you in so many styles with your fit notes and the same t-shirt is so helpful! Thank you for this!

  8. As someone with an hourglass build, it took a while to find a skinny jean that fit – aughties “straight leg” functioned as “skinny” on me. I now chuckle as I find myself re-adopting and kind of struggling to style the boot-cut jeans of my youth, along with finding (and cherishing) a few vintage pairs of the cut I wore in high school: Calvin Klein Easy Fit!

  9. This entire covo is boring. Styles change all the time. Either be fashion forward or wear what YOU like. Be creative, mix it up, be bold and unique. It’s all good.

  10. Kendi, as a long time follower of yours, I loved this post. I think fashion is al about finding what works for you and expresses your style and individuality. I love skinnies too but have been curious about the new styles out there (I’m a 43 year old Mom, btw). I’d love to see a follow up post on suggested tops to go with these new styles.

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