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Are Boyfriend Jeans Anti-feminist?

Red7 , February 12, 2014

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Writer Hadley Freeman tried to answer just this question in Monday’s Guardian Online.

The Guardian’s fashion guru explained that over-sized items have been labelled by the fashion industry as ‘boyfriend’ clothes because they look like they’ve been borrowed from their boyfriends.

Freeman suggests that ‘boyfriend’ clothes may have a darker purpose than  being comfy, baggy clothes for girls to slob around in while still looking stylish. She points out that the  trend suggests that to “insinuate one has a boyfriend makes one really cool and desired and validated” – put simply: looking like you have a boyfriend is now a fashion statement. So are our favourite boyfriend jeans actually an extremely un-feminist piece of clothing?

This week’s Stylist magazine is a tribute to women in fashion, inspired by the lead up to  London A/W Fashion Week 2014. The women’s fashion special celebrates the female designers and influential women in the fashion industry who have helped to rid the fashion industry of the “men create, women wear.” Women’s fashion is now created for women, whether the designer is a man or a woman.

In the Observer’s recent list of the 20 most influential people in fashion, women had the monopoly, with fashion powerhouses like Chief Executive at Whistles, Jane Sherherdson, designer mentor and founder of Fashion East, Lulu Kennedy and  course director of MA Fashion at Central Saint Martins College, Professor Louise Wilson OBE.

With these achievements for women in fashion in mind, how is it possible that something apparently so un-feminist like the boyfriend jean managed to slip through the gap and become such a staple piece in our wardrobes? In 2014, a woman can’t look cooler than as if she has just slept over at her boyfriend’s house and pilfered his scruffy, oversized denims. Have women in fashion really moved forward as much as we think they have?

At this point it’s probably appropriate to point out that as well as the boyfriend jean and the recent ‘girlfriend jean’ – a slightly more tapered and flattering version of their baggy predecessors – that something called the ‘ex-girlfriend jean’ also exists. In 2011, Levi Strauss started selling circulation-preventing skinny jeans for men who had a penchant for wearing their girlfriend’s skinny jeans in a bid to get a desired tighter fit. It’s also probably important to note that Topshop have now started selling ‘Mom’ jeans in their new S/S14 collection. If I’m not mistaken, Mom jeans used to be the subject of internet ridicule in America for being the unflattering, high-waisted jeans worn by portly mothers.

The fact of the matter is, Stylist magazine might just be right in celebrating this change in the female focus of fashion. Women no longer choose their clothes to placate and impress men, but to express themselves. Femininity in fashion is no longer just about the shape of your silhouette.

It turns out that boyfriend jeans just might be proof of this. Boyfriend jeans might sound anti-feminist, but they are not designed to please the male eye. And as Hadley Freeman concludes “any trend that suggests women should dress primarily for their own pleasure and comfort is a trend to be saluted.”



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