This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
In recent years, the skinny jean has become everyone's go-to, but they're certainly not a new thing. The cut has actually been around for decades and worn by an impressive roster of celebs, from Hollywood A-listers to sports stars and rock n' roll legends.
Lately, the skinny's #1 rank has surely been put to the test. With the strong resurgence of the '70s flare and the rise in popularity of boyfriend jeans, girlfriend jeans, and even modern-day JNCOs, options aren't exactly limited when it comes to denim silhouettes. We even thought for a moment that skinny jeans could be going completely extinct. Bu, if you ask us now (and if history is any indication), the shape has become a classic — and they'll never fully go away.
To celebrate the unwaveringly flattering style, we took a look back at skinny jeans wearers over the years and through the decades. Not only does it show how timeless and chic the skinny jean really is, it provides endless inspiration — and a good dose of nostalgia, too. If you were thinking of abandoning the skinny jean altogether, this should make you stop and think twice. Read on for a blast from the past, and shop our picks for each distinct variation.
Marilyn Monroe, pictured here casually sitting on a fence rocking skinny jeans in 1954, had no shortage of iconic fashion moments. Her skinny jeans may not have been as memorable as that white dress she wore in The Seven Year Itch, but she was certainly ahead of her time to be wearing them this early on. It's amazing how relevant her styling feels today — you can't go wrong wearing a flattering pair of dark wash skinnies with a classic white turtleneck and wedge mule. Plus, the look proves you can look sexy and show off your body shape without having to show a ton of skin. Now excuse us while we buy this exact outfit to wear come fall.
1960s: The White Skinny Jean
Meet Patti McGee, the first Woman's National Skateboard champion, shredding in her skinnies in California circa 1965. If she isn't a total badass, I don't know who is. In the 1960s, slim-fitting jeans were popular among everyone from the mods to rockers and the average man or woman. A cropped white skinny pairs well with layered tops — try a button-up under a light sweater, or a tank with a blazer or moto jacket. And instead of going barefoot like Ms. McGee, try a cool skater-inspired slip-on.
1970s: The Classic Black Skinny Jean
Everyone needs a well-fitting pair of basic black skinny jeans. While some went full-on hippie and embraced super-flared jeans or trousers, young badass Jodie Foster blurred the gender lines with this menswear-inspired look around a pair of classic black skinnies. Again, the look is totally timeless. Take a cue from Foster and put your sexy, form-fitting black pair with a more masculine, boxy top and jacket. Throw on your favorite chunky-heeled bootie and you've got a go-to outfit for day to night.
1980s: The Embellished Skinny
Slim-fitting pants made their way back to the forefront in the '80s, and even went so far as being 100% spandex. We know one thing for sure: less was not more in this decade. In fact, more was more, as exemplified by Whitney Houston, seen here performing in a bedazzled skinnies-and-jacket set, complete with ridiculous shoulder pads. It's not exactly how we'd wear them today, but it's still pretty amazing. Update the look by pairing an embellished skinny with a basic top, like a white tee or black cami, to balance out the extra pizazz on bottom.
1990s: The Extra-Legroom Skinny
Behold, a young Kate Moss landing in New York back in 1994. She's already a veteran of the whole model-off-duty look, this time with a perfectly destroyed white t-shirt, square-toed boots, and what looks like a scarf-blanket hybrid that's perfect for travel. The great thing about this laid-back, looser skinny is the comfort of extra breathing room. They're perfect for flights, weekend errands, and even chasing kids around (they are called "mom" jeans, after all).
2000s: The Whiskered Skinny
Early adopters like pop stars and fashion girls who followed Moss' lead in a world of Abercrombie & Fitch bell-bottom jeans brought the skinny craze back. Ashley Olsen, pictured here in September of 2006, paired them with a signature oversized crocodile bag, a loose-fitting oxford shirt, and a very early-2000s open tux vest. A whiskered skinny is a great wash to add to your collection — dress it up with a low and comfy metallic heel.
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