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Toss Frisbees in back yard with friends and their two boys. My thigh-tingle is getting worse, and is especially noticeable as I dive into the bushes while jumping for the disc. I don’t want to talk about it.
I decide to take the train to New York City, the heart of the skinny jeans universe, for inspiration. Out in the suburbs, why would anyone wear skinnies? I need to step up the experiment. Plus I need to go on a bender and listen to indie rock.
My friend and I go for drinks at the Spotted Pig, where every male leg in the restaurant is sealed in skinny jeans.
I approach three attractive young women sitting down with drinks to ask for an evaluation of my new look, which has since been complemented with a vintage Member’s Only jacket and a pair of Saucony sneakers that I wear when I mow the lawn. Usually, when I wear my Member’s Only jacket people mistake me for a Gatlin Brother, but here, in my ridiculous costume, I’m a member of the semi-demimonde.
“You look good, actually,” Anastasia, 23, a blonde in a minidress who works in an art gallery in Chelsea, tells me. “If I saw you on the street I’d give you a second look.” I can tell she’s just being nice, but her comment speaks to the power of the skinny jeans.
But then she adds a caveat: “If I see someone who is not wearing skinny jeans now, I just assume that person is a tourist.”
“Plebian, if you will,” chimes in Alexandra, 23, who interns at a lifestyle magazine.
If I could stop blushing from the compliments thrown my way, I’d remind myself that skinny jeans are already passé with a certain early-adopter crowd in New York (thus confirming the truism that once a trend appears in a newspaper, it’s in its death throes). The girls talk amongst themselves.
“If I see one more woman in acid wash skinny jeans with ripped-out holes,” Anastasia says, “I’ll tell her she’s got to go back to L.A.”
Then Gloria, 22, the brunette of the bunch, who runs her own clothing line, drops this little Zen koan: “Skinny jeans don’t have to be tight,” she declares as a hush falls over the table. “Just fitted.”
I take out my usual jeans from my backpack: faded Levis 569s, loose fit, straight leg. There’s a collective gasp.
“Burn those,” Alexandra says.
The next morning I set out to my old neighborhood: Williamsburg. The most hipster neighborhood in the most hipster borough of what is arguably the most hipster city on the planet. Everybody—literally, every single person—is wearing skinny jeans. I’m at a dive bar and I look up at the television: Iranian protesters are throwing rocks at soldiers; they’re wearing headscarves, handkerchiefs across their faces, and on their legs: skinny jeans.
The same skinny jeans that appeared on stage at CBGB, the East Village club infamous for its own brand of nightly uprising, three decades ago. I stop by the old club, which has since been turned into a high-end John Varvatos boutique. There’s rock memorabilia all around: photography books, posters, belt buckles. There are t-shirts for 98 bucks, a jacket that will set you back $1,200. The walls are filled with portraits from the club’s heyday: Patti Smith, Blondie, Richard Hell and the Voivods, and the Ramones. I go to the back of the store, the former site of the stage, hallowed ground. With my thighs a-tingling and the denim cutting off circulation to my shins, I try to summon the spirit of Joey Ramone.
I look around. Two stylish German guys model shirts in front of the mirror. Browsers sift through four-figure couture. Most of the men are wearing skinny jeans.
As I walk out, I remember the one time I saw the Ramones. It was November 22, 1987 at Glassboro State College, now Rowan University. Patti Smith went to college there. It was a Sunday night, and I was a sophomore in college. The Ramones had seen much better days. I remember how sad the concert seemed, how the sound in the gym made every chord echo and mush together, how kids started a perfunctory mosh pit out of punk rock obligation.
I also remember that I went because I wanted to get the concert under my belt, to check off of the list of bands I needed to see live. I’m a collector of experiences, you see, as opposed to an experiencer of experiences. I listen to records rather than record them. The promise of the skinny jean is that everyone can not only be skinny, but look the part of the tortured artiste. Perhaps the lamest part of buying and wearing a pair of skinny jeans is realizing that I can’t fake it. As I realized this, I felt that familiar tingle along my thigh, I asked to use the fitting room to change back to my usual frumpy jeans, and got on the train home.