The Tyranny of Pants
Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell’s New Book, Skirts, Points Out the Folly of Wearing Jeans
I have very few opinions about fashion, and almost all of them only pertain to strippers. So, I was pretty excited when my fashion historian friend, Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, agreed with my boldest style pronouncement: Jeans are a plague upon humanity.
Kimberly’s new book, Skirts: Fashioning Modern Femininity in the Twentieth Century, is a celebration of the unpantsed. A life she’s lived nearly uncompromised since I met her in college. Which was in the 1990s. Where she wore dresses to work at our school newspaper. This was only slightly less crazy than wearing stripper clothes.
A few years after we graduated, I internalized Kimberly’s rebellion. Although not in the elegant manner she chose.
Immediately upon walking through the door at the end of each evening, I’d struggle out of my trousers like an uncoordinated Chippendale. Then I’d throw them as far from me as I could, and yell, “The tyranny of pants!” I did not only do this upon entering my own front door. I did it upon entering any front door. My mom’s door when I stayed there. My friend Patty’s door when I stayed with her in L.A. A new girlfriend’s door. This is back when I barely drank.
The white-hot center of my ire wasn’t pants, which I accepted as a necessary evil, but jeans. Jeans are made of denim, a material which would only be called comfortable if burlap could talk. Jeans are meant not only for work I don’t do but work I don’t know how to do. They were created for gold miners so optimistic they thought they’d need rivets to hold all the nuggets they’d acquire. That’s the equivalent in 2022 of buying a Bitcoin wallet. Jeans are meant to protect you from cuts and motorcycle road burns. Wearing them to dinner makes as much sense as wearing a hazmat suit. Before Covid.
Despite this, people are always talking about how comfortable their jeans are. Which is clearly not true because designers have replaced 99 percent of denim in jeans with some kind of silly putty, effectively making denim-colored yoga pants — and yet they still don’t feel good.