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01.13.10

The Trend from Hell

Does anyone actually look good in jeggings? Rebecca Dana on the evil spawn of jeans and leggings.

I can’t feel my legs.

We are now three seasons into the 21st century’s worst fashion trend, in which women suck, pull, and squeeze themselves into denim-colored sausage casings and then waddle around pretending they’re wearing blue jeans. Just looking at these tragic hybrid “pants” can cut off a person’s circulation. Actually putting on a pair is a clinically proven health hazard.

Yet the scourge of the “jeggings” persists.

Click the Image to View Our Jeggings Gallery

They are everywhere: On Whitney Port, doe-eyed star of MTV’s The City; dip-dyed onto ubiquitous British model Agyness Deyn; bunched up on the floor of American Apparel fitting rooms; stretched like a helium balloon across the entire Jersey Shore. With a finger in each belt loop, they have even huffed and puffed and hauled their way up into the Oxford English Dictionary.

Two percent Lycra-spandex, at a minimum, and dyed to look just like 501s, with fake back pockets straining against even the slimmest rump and obscene little painted-on notches where the fly should be: They look good on precisely no one. But now, in 2010, after a year and a half in a recession, when we’re all supposed to be a little wiser and more sensible about our purchases, these horrible things are still flying off the shelves. Last summer, Women’s Wear Daily reported that such vaunted brands as Seven for All Mankind, BCBG, and, yes, even Levi’s were on the hunt for the latest “superstretchy denim” that will suction ever-tighter against women’s legs. Which means we have at least another season of acid-washed, faux-distressed, cotton-polyester leggings to come.

You think harem pants were bad? Harem pants were a well-tailored sport jacket compared to jeggings.

You think harem pants were bad? Harem pants were a well-tailored sport jacket compared to jeggings.

A portmanteau of “jeans” and “leggings,” jeggings are the product of a convergence of two recent trends, each inoffensive on its own but in combination, a bomb—a “don’t” according to New York magazine, which has carefully chronicled the rise of the surprisingly durable phenomenon; “ tragique-istan” in the words of Wall Street Journal fashion columnist Teri Agins.

Skinny jeans have been around long enough that we’ve pretty much figured them out. J. Crew, Banana Republic, and Club Monaco make them. Whatever your body type, you can find a pair that fit well enough—a stiff material, a dark wash, a forgiving cut. Leggings came back in the mid-Aughts, but Vogue laid down ground rules right away, to prevent a full reprise of the perilous 1980s: Leggings were to be worn in moderation, with blousy tops and boots. No visible waist-bands. For heaven’s sake, no stirrups.

And then, like a Vespa gang of European teenagers, jeggings invaded our shores. It’s not clear who bears the ultimate responsibility for this pestilence, but the safe bet is to blame TopShop. The beloved British trend emporium landed in Manhattan last spring and brought with it Kate Moss, high-end stripper heels, and an Americanized version of what shoppers across the Atlantic called “treggings.” Trousers, leggings, jeans—they are none of the above.

Jeans were created as affordable, durable pants for manual laborers in the 19th century. Beginning in the mid-20th century, they were co-opted by schoolboys, hippies, the Gap, and eventually luxury brands that did all sorts of crazy things with rips, dyes, and spandex content, and then jacked the price up to around $200 or more. You can quibble with some of the clothing items calling themselves “jeans” nowadays—you can debate about colors, cuts, and price-points—but one thing is for sure: Jeans do not give you camel toe.

We hereby call for an end to jeggings. Listen up, Taylor Swift, Cameron Diaz, Ashlee Simpson, Jessica Simpson, Mariah Carey, Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, and the costume department at the CW: Enough is enough. It’s a new year, a new decade, and high time American women put on some pants.

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Rebecca Dana is a senior correspondent for The Daily Beast. A former editor and reporter for The Wall Street Journal, she has also written for The New York Times, The New York Observer, Rolling Stone and Slate, among other publications.