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Publication: British Elle, 2003
 

Does My Bum Look Gay In This?

Fashion-forward men are wearing women’s jeans. But squeezing into them can be tricky, discovers Kevin Braddock

Damn right men are jealous of women. We get to pee standing up, you get to wear great jeans. There’s no contest. Whereas the market for women’s jeans has exploded in the last few years – new cult labels like For All Mankind, Earl, Marc By Marc Jacobs, Joie, Diesel, Paper, Cloth and Sass & Bide all showing recherché new styles - the market for men’s jeans is an absolute joke, but not a funny one. If you find Gap too plain, Top Man too high-street, Levi’s too twisted and Evisu so baggy you could go camping in them, it’s practically impossible to find good denim. I’ve tried. Of the 17 pairs I own, roughly three ever get an airing: some Lee 101b Riders and two pairs of Calvins. I need some new jeans.

Some American men clearly feel the same way: shopworkers at Barneys, Saks and Scoop in New York have noticed stylish Manhattanite men buying up womens jeans without even bothering to pretend they’re gifts for girlfriends - usually because they’re the kind of men who have boyfriends instead. Seven, Earl and Marc by Marc Jacobs numbers are flying out of the stores and landing on men’s backsides.

Which is why I’m in the ladies’ jeans department of Harvey Nichols Knightsbridge this Monday morning, being appraised by Cassie, Elle’s junior fashion writer. Several bemused stores assistant just watched us walk out of the changing rooms wearing the same jeans - For All Mankind’s faded boot-cut stretch denims. On Cassie, they great: low on the waist, sheer to the thigh, tight around the backside, svelte all over. I’ll secretly admit to enjoying mine: the denim was light but tough, they felt close on the waist and widened nicely onto the heel, even though they made me walk ‘like I just got off a horse’, as one onlooker commented. Does my bum does look gay in this? Yes.

‘They actually look good,’ says Cassie, who’s clearly lying. ‘They make your legs looks longer, they’re a good colour and they fit well around your backside.’

It’s easy to see why the Manhattan and London’s buns-of-iron brigade are going for women’s jeans: men’s jeans are traditionally looser over the backside, in the leg and across the groin - tailoring’s own ‘meatpacking district’. Women’s are cut closer to the leg and are generally longer, creating a narrower silhouette accenting the lines of the body -  particularly around the groin. ‘We’re definitely getting a lot of men buying women’s jeans,’ says Kate, a Harvey Nichols retail assistant. ‘A guy who works in Gucci down the road came in and bought Earl jeans, and a gay couple bought matching pairs of Built For Mankinds.’ Kate estimates she’s sold around 20 pairs in the last few weeks.

For heterosexual men, it’s another matter altogether. We’re used to extremely discreet displays of masculinity. Nevertheless the ‘dress gay, feel straight’ mindset embodied by David Beckham is rubbing off. Wardrobes are sharpening up and narrowing down. The roomy looks inspired by hip hop and acid house are being replaced by more figure-hugging shapes. Forget the Vanilla Ice loose-fit; instead the hot look is rockers like Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger, Robert Plant or, in my case, Phil Collins.

Iona from Harvey Nichols hands me a pair of the new Marc By Marc Jacob’s denims - faded flares with pretty tricolore ribbons sewn diagonally across flat-front pockets. Fashionistas have worked themselves into a global lather over Marc’s denim creations. To me, however, they look and feel like jeans I wore when as 16-year-old Stone Roses fan, when bagginess wasn’t just a look but an entire lifestyle. They’re crushingly tight at what tailors call ‘the hook’ (the gusset), and I can’t see my shoes. Nul points.

Two ladies stroll past as I emerge in Sass & Bide boot-cut brown cords with a waistband so low my knees are almost visible. ‘They’re too long, for a start,’ one says, tilting her head. ‘Wrong colour. Very low. Too tight. They’re not really you…’

Neither are the white drawstring-hem jeans with flatfront pockets by hot label Joie, which are fabulous on Cassie, and which make me resemble a painter & decorator: not a good look.

Finally, Built For Mankind’s dark-wash boot-cut distressed denims. These are great - good on the leg, strong colour and I’m ‘held in’ without feeling as if my privates are in a vice. It felt good; I felt momentarily ‘rock’, but managed to stop short of air-guitaring in lingerie section.

The truth is, as with any camp wardrobe affectation, you have to be profoundly secure in your masculinity to get away with wearing women’s jeans. Since I’m neither gay, nor Italian nor a rock star, I’ll stick to Calvins for now. But in the meantime, it was nice to have seen the inside of Harvey Nichols’ ladies changing room.

© Kevin Braddock 2003



 
 
 
All content ©2004 Kevin Braddock

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