Throughout the years the look of rock bands underwent quite some changes. In one way, shape, print or colour this was always linked to their social environment. However, one clothing item has managed to stand the test of time and remain present on stage to this very day; the skinny jeans. Even though some might say that this is a very caucasian event, the last couple of years have shown that the skinny Jeans does not discriminate against race. From rappers to cross-over R&B-singers, the urban world has fully embraced the tight fitting denim. I guess it’s true what Jay-Z said, “oversized clothes and chains, we off that!”
Skinny jeans were introduced in the 1950s. Elvis Presley is seen as the first musician to jump on its bandwagon. Presley, of course, was a rebel. He was wild, idolised by the youth and most importantly, he was a sex symbol. That particular word fits right in with the vocabulary of this matter. It lays in the tigh fitting silhouette, which showcases the body of its wearer, that these trousers have a sexual connotation. After all, the body, male or female, is the most arousing form of attraction known to mankind.
Next to sex, the indigo pant became a sign of rock ‘n roll and bad boys. And wrether or not that was the reason artists in the decades to follow took to this garment is up for debate. Fact remains that they did. From the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, led by frontman Mick Jagger, to punk rock bands like the Sex Pistols, who gave the jean a punk/goth treatment. The rock scene was not alone though, country and pop stars embraced the look as well. The urban culture seemed to be the only one that did not really follow the trend.
Every rule has its exceptions. In the case of the urban scene, flamboyant personalities like Rick James and Michael Jackson managed to take on the skinny jeans and make it their own. It fit their persona. Guys in the street were just not adopting this look quite like the teenage fans of the rock ‘n roll legends. Much like the rest of their clothes, they liked their jeans to be baggy and oversized. From the eighties till the beginning of the 00s things stayed that way. However the millenium brought change.
One of the first black urban artist to really rock skinny jeans was rapper and producer Pharrel Williams. He did it through the image of being a skaterboy, to whom the jean is basically a uniform. It is arguable that he was part of a different subculture, one that doesn’t necessarily have links to hip hop or R&B. He was not restrained to black rules of dress. As a result he remained in a league of his own for many years.
And then came fashion. The urban community started rising up in the world, moving away from the image of being gangsters and living in the ghetto. Everyone started cleaning up their act to be taken seriously. The rappers and singers wanted to build empires and reach a bigger audience, outside of the black world. To do so, they had to combine their own style with that of the caucasian western world and find a balance. Before, slim fittig clothes were thought of as gay, the one thing that would instantly take away one’s street credibility. Masculinity was extremely important and expressed through being big, aggressive and tough. Skinny jeans were neither one of those things. It took some time before the black community realised that slim fitting and tailored clothing are actually a sign of sophistication. As soon as they realised that, they found a way to adapt to it.