Jeans Shopping: a horror story

As if there were any other kind of story about jeans shopping

While we’re on the subject of hellscapes (pandemic travel, slugs) let’s take a moment to talk about shopping for jeans. Second only to shopping for swimsuits in the pantheon of horrifying retail experiences (surely I am not alone at openly sobbing in the John Lewis sports department changing room after a misguided foray into a tankini) but with the added disadvantage that you can’t just say “well, that’s grim, but I’ll wrap a towel around it and nobody will see.”

No matter what your physical insecurity - your waist, your belly, your bum, your thighs, the length of your legs - there is a style of jeans that will flatter you, and three hundred that will look terrible, and it’s pretty much guaranteed that you will try those ones on first. I’ve had a breeze this last decade because I look good in low slung skinny jeans, and they have been everywhere. Unfortunately, I am now completely fucked because I only look good in low slung skinny jeans, and they no longer exist. I don’t mean that they are no longer on trend. I mean they no longer exist.

Because I ride a bicycle, my jeans wear out at the crotch (crotch is such an elegant and sexy word - which is great, because I use it a LOT in this piece). While I do try to make do and mend, there is only so much patching and repair that you can undertake in that area before feeling like you are wearing a denim nappy. So I am now down to my final pair of jeans: a perfect Nudie Jeans charcoal grey hipster skinny that I bought in Amsterdam two years ago. (Quick unpaid advertorial: Nudie Jeans are great because they are made from organic cotton, and they repair your jeans for free. You can also trade your old jeans in when you buy new ones for a partial discount. Please send me some free jeans, Nudie. Unpaid advertorial ends.) I love these jeans to distraction. So much so that to shore up against disaster I recently tried to buy another pair, only to discover that Nudie have replaced them. The new skinny style is high waisted. In fact, all Nudie’s styles are currently high waisted.

Now, I am slim, but I am not curvaceous. The usual term for my body shape is “boyish” but I tend to think of it as “Pepperami.”

A high-waisted jean is designed to climb up over your hips and then go in to where it fastens at the waist. My waist does not go in. When I try to fasten things at the waist, one of two things happen. Either, nothing - there is a clear two to three inches between the sides of the trouser and I have to give up. Or I squuuueeeeeeze and end up with the excess flesh bulging over into an almighty muffin top. So almighty that once I posted a picture of myself on Facebook with my muffin top revealed and the Facebook algorithm mistook it for a face, placed a tag on it and asked me “who is this?”

Obviously I can take some corrective action by going up a size, but then we run into problem number two. I am tall. The average British woman is 5 ft 4 and I am 5 ft 8. So the average distance between crotch and waist, for which jeans are designed, is significantly shorter than the distance between my crotch and my waist, meaning that even if I can do the waist up, I end up with the kind of camel toe wedgie that threatens to split a person in half. (This is also why I can’t wear one piece swimsuits and end up crying in changing rooms in tankinis.) In a hipster jean the crotch to waist ratio doesn’t matter because you can just wear them low slung and belt them for dear life, but you can’t do up a high waisted jean on your hips without going up about five sizes and wearing the legs like sails.

Even this wouldn’t be a problem if it was only Nudie Jeans who had decided to go high waisted this season, but no. It is all jeans. ALL JEANS. I have been to all of the shops, I have been to all of the internet, I have tried on all of the jeans. There are no jeans that fit me now. My body shape is no longer in fashion.

How can a body shape go in and out of fashion? You cannot do anything about your shape. You can’t get taller. You can’t get shorter. You can be a wider version of you, you can be a narrower version of you, but you will always go in where you go in and out where you go out. You cannot suddenly go from Jamie Lee Curtis to Kim Kardashian. (Admittedly you can get surgery. But a friend of mine had liposuction out of her thighs and into her bum, and it cost a small fortune and she said the pain was worse than childbirth, so much as I love jeans, it’s a no from me.) While I understand that in order to make money out of us the fashion industry has to suddenly decree that tight jeans are for losers and baggy jeans are the best, no wait baggy jeans are hideous and bell bottoms are the only jean, I don’t understand why the new jean shape, whatever it is, can’t do up in a variety of ways to cater for a variety of people. (Seasoned jeans wearers might at this stage remember when Levis addressed this problem by styling their jeans for different body shapes and yes that was great but they don’t do it any more so let’s just mourn that and move on.) I’m happy to be unfashionable but comfortable, I can tolerate being fashionable and looking like shit, all I ask is to be able to do my trousers up. I don’t want to be literally nudie from the waist down.

But it is not to be. So congratulations curvy women, enjoy your day in the sun. I bear you no ill will, you have waited long enough. Meanwhile, if you need me I will be over here, wearing tracksuit bottoms for the foreseeable future.