Plenty of old fogeys in pleated khakis were probably happy to read the news that skinny jeans could possibly cause nerve damage. This makes it easy to swipe at youth fashion and tell those “hipsters” in their silly pants to get a nice pair of Dockers or something nice and flowey from Chico’s like respectable human beings. But don’t you worry about science. You keep on rocking that calf-hugging denim like you’re Kendall Jenner in the airport on the way to Milan. The science behind these headlines isn’t as sound as those finger-wagging fashion scolds want us all to think.
The numerous news reports stem from an article published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry and is really a case study based on one woman who had to be hospitalized for four days to regain feeling in her feet after wearing a pair of jeans that were far too skinny to be healthy. (Remember: Spandex is a privilege, not a right, and should be used responsibly.) Yes, this is an isolated incident. It’s sort of like saying that no one should go to McDonalds because one time a girl found a worm in her Chicken McNuggets.
The woman in question, an Australian, was wearing skinny jeans to help a friend move and was doing lots of bending and lifting throughout the day. I hope this friend paid her a lot more than pizza and beer for her troubles. Neurologists determined that this woman’s calf casings were so tight and her exertion so vigorous that she damaged the nerve that allows for feeing and movement in the feet and ankles.
This isn’t a lesson in not wearing skinny jeans; it’s a lesson in dressing appropriately. If you know you’re going to be moving, don’t you want to wear something loose-fitting and comfortable? Does this woman not own one pair of sweats? Couldn’t she have worn some boyfriend jeans, which are popular now and allow a little bit more room? Does she have something against a nice pair of yoga pants? Just like you wouldn’t wear a business suit to a nightclub, a pair of flip flops on a skiing trip, or a soccer uniform to a job interview, you shouldn’t be wearing the tightest pants in your wardrobe for a day of heavy exertion.
There are plenty of times when tight pants are appropriate (and in some circles preferred), and this one woman shouldn’t keep anyone from enjoying all those instances. Even if skinny jeans do cause a bit of discomfort, isn’t that what fashion is all about? There is something in the suffering that makes clothing even more desirable. Now that skinny jeans have gone from mildly uncomfortable to downright dangerous, they’re just a little bit cooler. They’re like the bungee jumping of pants.
This woman recovered. But think about all the fashions that have done irreparable harm, such as bound feet, corsets, and stretched earlobes. Possible damage from skinny jeans isn’t nearly as extreme and is reversible. It’s like getting your ear pierced and contracting an infection. You’ll be in a bit of pain for a few days, but it will likely get better.
We do awful things to our bodies chasing some sort of ideal—think about the waxing, high heels, chemical peels, botulism face injections to get the perfect Nicole Kidman glower, the laser tattoo removal to disappear the tramp stamp of the comedy and drama masks you thought was such a good idea your senior year in high school. Skinny jeans are nothing compared to those.
Even if they were, like so many fashions nowadays that you can buy at Forever 21, the pendulum is sure to swing the other way in no time. Before there is a rash of people falling over in the streets with numb feet, we will have moved on to a new obsession, like the re-emergence of JNCO jeans, the return of bell bottoms, or guys wearing skirts. Hey, don’t laugh, Kanye did it.
All this scolding over skinny jeans is just a bunch of fuddy-duddies reeling in the fact that there is a tiny iota of scientific evidence to eradicate a trend that has hung on a bit too long that they really want to get rid of. These people were going to hate your jeggings no matter what science says. So why are you listening to them? Do what makes you look and feel good. Well, maybe not feel good, but at least doesn’t make you feel like your feet are going to fall off.