When it comes to fashion, where taste is subjective, everything is up for discussion. Over the past few seasons, one particularly controversial item has been popping up in lookbooks, off-beat editorials, and Balenciaga runways.
It’s the bootcut jean, a style that both intrigues and repels.
The Highsnobiety office is split on the bootcut’s potential return. Below, style editors Graeme Campbell and Max Grobe go head-to-head on the contentious denim cut’s proposed comeback.
Boot Them to the Kerb
There is a photo of me buried in my Facebook archive, from around 2006, where I am wearing a trilby hat, a lemon scarf, a Strokes T-shirt, checkerboard Vans, and — the pièce de résistance — a pair of bootcut jeans. It is unquestionably the worst thing I have ever seen.
Fashion might be cyclical, but there are some things that should be left alone forever. For me, bootcuts can be filed alongside Nike Roshe Runs, Topman piano belts, and Ed Hardy T-shirts. Objectively terrible gear, forever tainted by ill-advised teenage sartorial decisions.
In this post-Vetements world, where nostalgia and irony have become two of the biggest factors in dictating what a lot of young people want to wear, the bootcut’s proposed return isn’t really surprising. That they are so derided has now become a virtue – wearing them is an act of rebellion in itself. It’s the same logic that sees Travis Scott and Lil Uzi Vert gravitate towards seemingly washed, early ’00s denim brands like True Religion and Evisu. It’s all so boring.
The long and short of it is that bootcuts are aesthetically terrible. When seen on the Celine or Martine Rose runway they might look kinda cool, but try incorporating them into your current wardrobe without looking like a Man United player from that photograph. Trust me, there are very few shoes, or – God forbid – sneakers, that can make the flare silhouette look good. Even during their heyday, only really tall guys could pull them off.
I’m a traditionalist when it comes to such staples. If I need a pair of jeans that are a bit baggier around the bottom of the leg for certain shoes, I would keep it simple and opt for something with a straight leg opening, like Levi’s 501s, APC’s New Standard, or one the many options from Acne’s Blå Konst line. Even Kanye West — who has sometimes favored jeans over track pants in recent times — opts for a no-nonsense pair from Carhartt WIP.
If you really want to ball out with something a little more extravagant, then Jacquemus and Rick Owens’ Drkshdw do some nice roomy pairs. See? Not all loose jeans are bad, but bootcuts deserve all the abuse they get.
– Graeme Campbell, style editor.
Bootcuts are back, baby!
Similar to Graeme, there are pictures of me on the internet in fits so abhorrent that they warrant immediate deletion, but can’t be, because Mark Zuckerberg owns all my data. Unlike Graeme, however, I’m not much of a denim traditionalist; there are some staples that beg for reviving.
Firstly, the denim market has been a little stale recently. I haven’t been excited about a pair of jeans since Raf Simons’ drug and Christiane F.-inspired FW18 collection.
Sure, there was a moment when the new straight-leg styles with steeped hems (à la Vetements) were seen on the street style circuit and eventually made their way down into high street stores, but that trend appears to have lived and died with Vetements, whose most recent denim piece featured a Batman symbol and the BOSE logo. Spare me.
For a while, it looked like denim was falling out of favor with menswear entirely, while combat pants, suit pants, and tracksuits took precedent as the standard trouser option. Maybe Luka Sabbat said it best.
However, there were interesting denim options on the recent SS20 runways, from the likes of GmbH, Martine Rose, Rick Owens, and, most pertinently, Celine, whose SS20 show was filled with bootcuts, skinny black belts, striped vests, and leather jackets.
It feels significant that the OG arbiter of the skinny jean, Hedi Slimane – whose Dior Homme collections arguably started the slim-fit wave – has now adapted his signature silhouette to accommodate a roomier, more ’70s-inspired denim line for Spring/Summer 2020. And this is Hedi Slimane we’re talking about, a designer who takes criticism ad nauseam from fashion critics for repeating the same aesthetic. If he can get aboard, then surely we can all embrace the bootleg. Everything comes back into fashion eventually.
Thankfully, the wider menswear lanscape has come leaps and bounds since the last time bootcut styles would have been worn by anyone with a modicum of personal style, so I’d prepare for a bootcut revival in such a way that will show that you’re not cluelessly rummaging through your dad’s wardrobe, but actually making an intellectual and prophetic fashion statement.
I’d pair bootcut jeans (like the Margiela pair below) with a plain-ish tee (maybe something cropped?), and an oversized jacket layered on top to balance it out. Naturally, the wider shape below lends itself to something tight and tucked-in on top, a style that sadly doesn’t check out with skinny or straight-leg denim because of the proportions.
However, it’s worth noting that new “bootcut” styles are different from the kind that Simon Cowell wore during his American Idol tenure. The Balenciaga cuts are slightly narrower around the thigh and give up to four breaks around the ankle as the denim pools around your feet.
And speaking of feet, bootleg cuts obviously open us up to the idea of wearing boots again. But this is 2019, so why not employ a pair of Margiela Tabis, cowboy boots, Salomon hiking boots, military-inspired boots, or even a pair of clean Yeezys?
Fashion is more accessible than ever, and the cycles of what’s in and what’s out are shrinking, meaning that, to stand out, you have to be willing to take a risk. I’m pro-bootcut and pro-change. I guess we’ll see next year.
– Max Grobe, Associate Style Editor