Why Don’t Pants Go All The Way Down To The Floor Anymore? An Investigation

There’s something that’s been bothering me for a few months now, and I was hoping it would just resolve itself with the changing of the seasons, but it looks like that’s not happening anytime soon. (Indeed, the high today in New York City is a positively balmy 73ºF.) So please, have a seat, and hear me out. This is the primary fashion issue of my current personal time and I know it’s affecting you too. It’s the length of our pants, but more specifically our jeans. They don’t go all the way down to the floor anymore! Why??? In part, because we are rolling them up, because they are vintage Levi’s 501s (or whatever Madewell’s or Gap’s or Reformation’s or Urban Outfitters’ impression of a vintage jean is), which take on a more “relaxed,” “boyfriend” look when we roll them up and expose our dainty ankles. But it’s not just the vintage boyfriend jean look. It’s all the jeans. That’s the style of all the jeans now. When did this happen?

Let me back up. Remember the early aughts? Remember capris? Remember the J. Crew Minnie pant? This is not that. Those were three-quarter length pants. According to Lululemon, 2017 is the year of seven-eighths. I know it sounds silly, but that one eighth really makes a difference! At some point between skinny jeans and now, it’s like we all had a middle-school growth spurt combined with our dad accidentally tumble-drying the jeans we expressly said must be line dried so that they would drape just so over our Adidas shell-toes, and now all of our inseams have shrunk and we look stupid. It’s just enough to look accidental. It almost looks right, but is definitely wrong. We’re in an uncanny valley of inseam lengths, and you have to wonder if you’re being short-changed on fabric for cost-cutting purposes.

When Everlane (speaking of cost-cutting!) came out with their much-ballyhooed denim line, I was cautiously excited, if only by the price point (jeans are too damn expensive will be my platform in 2024). But I was a bit disappointed when I logged on to find that none of the jeans were full length. Please, tell me if you see a difference between The High-Rise Skinny Jean (Regular), at left, and The High-Rise Skinny Jean (Ankle)?

I regret to inform you that Everlane is straight-up lying once again. The nomenclature here is all wrong: I can see ankle in both images!! Whatever those are on the left is not “Regular.” Did that stop me from buying them? No, absolutely not. And I must say, they fit great at the waist (I bought the Mid-Rise because my hips are evident enough, thank you). But what they do not do is go anywhere near the floor or my shoe. Which is fine during “Hotumn” or “Hotober” or “Hotvember,” but will they last into December?

What happens when the temperature drops below 55ºF and you have to walk ten blocks out of your way to get to work because the train is doing that thing again? Will you just wear socks and have an Urkelesque gray area of too-much-sock, not-enough-pant? Or will you think cleverly of a high-top sneaker or a heeled bootie, but not realize until you get to work and sit down that everyone can see your unshorn shins?

No one needs or wants to see this.

I’m afraid there is no right answer, and we’re all going to look quite foolish in a few weeks.

Why isn’t anyone calling these cropped jeans what they are: “cropped”? Some of us know these as “floods.” Close, but not quite. I’ve also seen a lot of what they (the all-powerful fashion “they”) are calling “step-hem,” whose overall effect can be described as, “You Ran Out Of The Tailor’s Mid-Alteration To Chase Down Your Ex And His New Girlfriend To See How Hot She Is From The Back” and just left it hanging that way (crying all the way home). Hot off the Cold Shoulder trend of this spring, perhaps we should call this the Cold Ankle? Whatever it is it’s unsustainable.

Where did this trend come from?  In some ways, this feels like a bit of a hangover from this summer’s awful trendlet, The High-Rise Wide-Leg Crop, AKA the sailor pant. It’s also a bit of a band-aid solution for how to deal with jeans that were originally tailored to fit men (Do something fun with the ends! Roll them up so they know you have a boyfriend!), because while they might fit you at the waist, wherever you decide that is, they look like balloons over your shoes if you don’t scrunch the ends up. And no, I’m not going to pay for a full-scale alteration of the nice vintage jeans just so I can have a twisted outer seam in that nice heavyweight ’90s selvedge. Like I said above with the price of jeans.

But in most ways, it appears to be a last-ditch attempt to stave off what is surely coming up next, the return of the bell-bottom flare. We’ve exhausted the skinny jean and poked enough fun at ourselves and hipster millennials in jeggings and have swung completely the other way into some kind of awful wide-leg territory. Do not be fooled, this is a temporary respite. We are living in ignorance of the inevitable fact that at some point, for our own health and safety, our pants will have to touch our shoes. Maybe on the way to full flare we’ll pause again briefly to salute the boot cut? Maybe some radical designer will invent the ankle peplum? Or perhaps—as I know 1990s permateen Katie Notopoulos longs for—we will enter a very dark period of flared pants with inseams so long they brush the floor in the back, and get all dirty and ragged.

All I know is that no one wants to deal with What’s Happening Down There, and it’s a big problem.