What would you say is the standard lifespan of a fashion trend? How long did leg warmers and Wayfarers last in the early 80s, like two years? Three? What about stonewashed jeans? Three years, tops? Day-glo T-shirts? “Frankie Say Relax”? Shoulder pads? Cargo pants? Von Dutch hats? Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera?
Granted, some of these things come back and get a second life, usually about 20 years after the first go-round. Thankfully, the second wave of Members Only jackets seems to have crested and crashed, and when I saw a dude wearing a “Beat It” jacket unironically a couple of years ago I feared it was the start of something we’d all regret. (It wasn’t.) But even the rerun only lasts a year or two.
Consider, then, the mightiest, most resilient fashion trend of the late 20th century, one that’s lasted over 20 years now, long enough to outlast its own revival: Big Baggy Pants. I’m starting to think “trend” is the wrong word, and that this is the kind of thing that’s going to be with us forever, like button-down shirts and the little black dress.
Leaving the merits of this look aside — I am no stranger to fashion transgressions of my own and am in no position to cast value judgments — how has this particular fashion become so dominant? I truly do not understand it. I can understand that it happened in the first place; it came in the late 80s, as a reaction to the skintight tracksuits and Jordaches that had taken center stage (and which are now enjoying their own revival). Things ebb, and they flow. Miami Vice pastels are supplanted by earth tones; lipstick and teased hair (a la Poison) is replaced by ripped jeans and flannel (a la Nirvana); tight is replaced by loose; I get it. But what made it different from all the other trends that I mentioned above? Why has it lasted so much longer than, say, Cosby sweaters?
I truly don’t know the answer, but the question fascinates me, particularly because Big Baggy Pants actively interfere with the wearer’s mobility, and thus require a much greater commitment than any other fashion trend I can think of.
I got to thinking about all this (not for the first time) on my way home from the office yesterday. I was crossing a major intersection, and coming the opposite way I saw a young fellow hustling to beat the light, with one hand clutching the front of his pants to hold them up, and struggling to maintain his stride as the waistline, situated just below his butt cheeks (as mandated by law), resisted his efforts. Because, when you drop the waistline below the butt, that puts the crotch squarely between the knees, which has the effect of handcuffing your knees together. So this gentleman looked like he was going to fall down the moment he raised his speedometer above “amble.”
This is not the first time I’ve seen this happen. It’s totally common in my Brooklyn neighborhood to see dudes walking around with the front of their pants in a wad in their fist. In fact, I once saw a guy let go of his Big Baggy Pants (he needed both thumbs to compose a text message) and they dropped to his ankles like a stone. (He pulled them up without missing a beat, stonefaced, as though it was the 80th time it had happened.) But that guy was just standing around; this guy yesterday was crossing Flatbush Avenue, the biggest thoroughfare in the 4th largest city in America. Call me a ninny, but I don’t feel like that would be a good place to turf out in a tangle of my own pants.
I have noticed some interesting variations on the look in the last year or two. Last summer I took my son to the beach at Coney Island and I saw a teenager with two bathing suits on: a regular pair of trunks, pulled below his ass (as mandated by law), and a Speedo underneath it (to cover said ass). I tried to get a picture because I knew no one would believe me but it took me too long to dig out my phone.
Of course, I’m not blind: I see that Super Skinny Pants have made a comeback. (I bartend in the Lower East Side, after all.) I’m not even sure “comeback” is the right word, because I don’t recall pants ever being as tight as they are now. But even here, vestiges of Big Baggy Pants cling to life: dudes are still pulling them down below their ass (as mandated by law), which makes the crotch-around-the-knees conundrum even more constricting than with the Big Baggies. (At least their hands are free, so it is a partial improvement.)
Since I know not a whole lot of people read this, and I’m grateful for those of you who do, I want to let you in on the next big trend, because maybe you can find a way to get in on the ground floor, via investment or design or whatever, and make yourself a little money. Consider it a thank you for your support.
I have it on good authority that Nike is developing size 22-28 sneakers. Adidas, Fila, and K-Swiss aren’t far behind, and I understand Reebok is going to offer a size 30. 50 Cent, Eminem, and Blake Griffin have already shot ads, and rollout is scheduled for the fall.
Be the first one on your block to rock Great Big Shoes! Shoes that fit are so 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th century — the 21st century is all about Great Big Shoes, so get with it, because as Heidi Klum reminds us, in fashion, one day you’re in and the next you’re out!