How to Wear Skinny Jeans and Not Look Tragic

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The answer to the above is a simple three word rule: Copy Kate Moss. While approximately all of fashion wriggled into skinnies in the early Noughties, only Moss managed to influence an entire generation of girls and boys to buy Topshop’s Jamie jeans. Amy Winehouse, Alexa Chung and Victoria Beckham all technically gave us the skinny on how to navigate denim’s slimline silhouette, but no one pulled off drainpipes quite like Kate, who made them–against all odds–look completely effortless.

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2003 was a significant year for Moss because, after giving birth to her daughter Lila in September 2002, the model mother reaffirmed the foundations of her wardrobe. Central to this was denim. Specifically, figure-hugging denim. The coolest mom on the planet, Moss pushed prams and appeared at Dazed & Confused parties (Lila’s father, Jefferson Hack founded Dazed Media) wearing variations of the same outfit on repeat: skinny jeans tucked neatly into boots with a military or faux fur jacket thrown on and a slouchy tote (Balenciaga’s Le City, Longchamp’s Gloucester Duffle and Mulberry’s Bayswater were all favorites) nestled in the crook of her arm. It was simple yet a soupçon rock‘n’roll—the uniform that would take her from Loulou’s to the Isle of Wight festival by the time she was dating Pete Doherty.

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Kate was never loyal to a specific brand of jeans (she has collaborated with Frame and Rag & Bone, as well as Toppers), but the cut was always the same–tight, but not in danger of cutting off the circulation to one’s extremities, low on the hips and long enough to softly pool around the ankles, rather than kissing them. (As the Ben Sherman shirt crowd would later prove, no one wants their legs to look like they are encased in sausage wrappers.) Ballet pumps from Repetto were–and still are–a mainstay in the warmer months, but boots–from Vivienne Weswood’s Pirate pair to Alaïa’s booties and Hunter wellies–are still the MVPs.

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As my colleague Julia Hobbs recently stated, while poring over a picture of Kate being Kate in 2003, skinny jeans walked so that jeans in boots could run. Translation: skinnies’ most successful outings are when they don’t look like spray-on denim at all. They are a blank canvas for great accessories–Celine, as Julia points out, currently does an adjacent pair to Kate’s foldover boots and Balenciaga has happily just relaunched its Le City bag. To execute the snake-hipped silhouette in 2024 is to not make a big deal of it, to let one’s trophy heeled boots and messy totes sing, to stride out as if the modern-day equivalent of the Groucho–or, indeed, the Hawley Arms–is calling. It does not require ripping your jeans at the knee in an effort to look punkish, or never washing them to look like [insert favourite indie band here]. To wear sylph-like denim now is to look considered and polished, secure in the knowledge that the skinny has indeed grown up–as have you.

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