A generation war has been playing out on TikTok for some time, though anyone older than 24 might be oblivious to the millions of “millennial v Gen Z” videos that have appeared on the social media site in the past year. But now the kids have turned their sights on something that millennials apparently hold close to their hearts: skinny jeans.
In scenes reminiscent of the “OK boomer” meme that divided the generations in 2019, the videos have shone a light on how Generation Z – broadly defined as anyone born between the mid-90s and 2010 – identify themselves in contrast with the generation that came before them.
Since January there have been 274,000 videos tagged “no skinny jeans” on TikTok and 8.3m millennial v Gen Z videos. Earlier in the month the male supermodel Luka Sabbat told Esquire: “Skinny jeans don’t look as flattering nowadays.”
A video from TikTok user @momohkd instructs her 410,000 viewers to throw their skinny jeans away, set them alight or cut them into something new. Like other users she says millennials should stop wearing them to look younger.
Skinny jeans became mainstream in 2005 after featuring in the Dior Homme autumn/winter collection, as overseen by Hedi Slimane. The size of the jeans – 27 inches – were considered tiny, especially in contrast to the price tag: about £200. “Slimane’s skinny jeans were significant for their cut, but also for the bodies he showed them on – incredibly skinny bodies, both of male and female models,” says Emma McClendon, the author of Denim: Fashion’s Frontier. “This changed the marketing and styling of jeans advertisements away from the more sensual look that had dominated the market for bootcut, low-rise jeans to a more androgynous and impossibly thin figure.”
The skinny jean became part of the 2000s boho look of It-girls such as Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie (as styled by Rachel Zoe), as well as a part of the alternative rock boom of the era, as seen on bands including the Strokes and Razorlight. But they never really went away: Jill Biden recently wore a pair on Instagram and they also became a distinguishing feature on the “four lads in jeans” meme.