IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The skinny jeans debate is stupid. Here's why you should just wear what you want

Millennials and Gen Z have a lot in common, so stop pitting us against each other.
The jeans debate is stupid, just wear what you want
Millennials, don't sweat the jeans debate!TODAY illustration / Getty Images
/ Source: TMRW

This same narrative is literally all over the internet — skinny jeans are out, side parts are “cheugy”— and you know what?


The thing about fashion is that it is always changing. Change is the only constant we have!

So if the mom jeans we wore 25 years ago are back in again and my mom’s L.L. Bean jacket I’ve hung onto for some reason is back in style? Great.

The thing about what I’m terming the “jeans narrative” — this constant news coverage that pits Gen Z against millennials — is that it’s stupid, counter-productive and inherently creates a discord that I, for one, don’t think is actually there.

As a younger millennial myself, it feels like things keep cropping up to remind me I'm growing older. If the baby announcements from my friends didn't do it, a kid that I used to babysit turning 15 certainly does. It's all part of the existential crisis I'm facing as I approach my 30th birthday this summer. I'd joked on my 29th birthday that it was my "last hot year" and then, ironically, spent the entirety of it sitting on the couch next to my dog.

I surely am not the only millennial feeling this way. As our generation approaches middle age (especially the "geriatric millennial" cohort), and feel perhaps not entirely ready for it, some of us have taken the latest fashions (or rather, fashions from the 1990s that are back in style somehow) rather personally.

"You’ll have to pry my high rise jeans from my cold dead hands," @ThatGirlShaeXo recently tweeted.

"Gen z can call my bangs and skinny jeans ugly but if they come for my iced coffee I’m throwing hands," another person wrote.

But here's the thing ... *steps on soap box*

Wear whatever clothes you want that make you feel good.

If mom jeans and oversized sweatshirts are it, lit. If you want to rock some high-waisted skinny jeans, also great.

I do not care what you put on your body. I just love to see women supporting other women.

Which brings me to my second point: All of these critiques of fashion seem to target women. Jean jackets, side parts, Ann Taylor Loft — all of these things are specific to those who identify as female. What’s that about? I’ll tell you: internalized misogyny.

It’s when women subconsciously project sexist ideas onto other women and even onto themselves.

Why are we tearing down other women in the first place? Have we learned nothing in the past 50 years?

What’s that about? I’ll tell you: internalized misogyny.

If we wanted to talk about generational something, let’s talk about the fact that adults born in the 1990s — an even split between the youngest Millennials and oldest Gen Zers — have significantly more in common than we think.

On an anecdotal level, I know many of my friends, coworkers, even my younger sibling, technically fall into the Gen Z category and we get along just fine. In the big picture though, we both came of age during hard economic times, like Great Recession or the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both generations grew up using new technology and have watched it evolve before our eyes — it really doesn't matter that some of us remember AOL Instant Messenger while others have been using Snapchat since high school. We know how to use it, how it shapes our lives and the chore of helping parents or older coworkers reconnect to the WiFi.

And finally, people born around the 1990s, whether they are Gen Z or Millennials, have about 50% fewer assets than what the Federal Reserve expected their households to have at this point.

“They were pretty far behind where we would expect them to be in terms of wealth,” Ana Hernandez Kent, a senior researcher at the Federal Reserve in St. Louis told TMRW, citing the most recent data available from 2019. Yes, I called the Fed for this rage op-ed ostensibly about jeans.

“Thirty-somethings are trying to hold on to what those skinny jeans represented pre-pandemic: A time when they were at their peak, when they knew what was coming next and there wasn’t all of this uncertainty.”

Dawnn Karen, fashion psychologist

The measurement, she explained, includes assets like house value and vehicles, 401Ks, other retirement accounts and stocks (minus any debts like credit cards and student loans). She said that, on average, those born in the 1990s (now in their 20s) only have about $7,600 in wealth. They would’ve normally expected people at this age to have $15,000 based on previous generations.

“That percentage is really shocking but it's not insurmountable, particularly given that a lot of them are more highly educated (and) that it's a diverse cohort,” she said. “So really it's a wait and see.”

Cool cool cool, so we're all struggling together, but may someday bounce back!

In a recent Washington Post article, a millennial fashion psychologist named Dawnn Karen, who is “not giving up skinny jeans for anyone,” said millennials are looking for consistency as we navigate between young adulthood and middle age.

“Thirty-somethings are trying to hold on to what those skinny jeans represented pre-pandemic: A time when they were at their peak, when they knew what was coming next and there wasn’t all of this uncertainty,” she told the paper.

Fine, sure, I get that. My "last hot year" turned out to be basically the opposite. I straight up developed a system of day pajamas and night pajamas, and I probably set my own record for "days without showering" and "days without leaving my apartment." While I'm grateful that I was lucky enough to not be personally effected by COVID-19, it's been a pretty tough year all around.

But that doesn't mean we need to freak out when the younger generation decides they want to wear wide-leg jeans. Let them live! They have to learn. We know that too-long flared jeans will drag and rip and get soaked in the rain and snow. We know that it's very hard to look sexy in mom jeans (but they are comfy!). The great news is that what they put on their bodies is their business and what you personally choose to wear is yours.

We actually have much more in common as millennials and Gen Z than we have differences, and besides, we basically just make up generations as we see fit.

So the next time you see someone identify themselves as a “girlboss” on their overly filtered Instagram or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, you see someone in tiny sunglasses with ripped mom jeans and bright white dad sneakers, resist the urge to groan and remember the old phrase: empowered women empower women.