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The Ugly Truth about Skinny Jeans

April 23, 2010

When was the last time you sat down and talked to teenagers about the do’s and don’ts of fashion?  Trust me, it can be quite an eye-opening experience viewing it from their point of view. 

Recently I sat down and talked to my 15-year old daughter about skinny jeans and received her expressed opinion on who should and shouldn’t wear them, and when skinny jeans are considered too tight or not tight enough; how some pants can easily be mistaken as skinny jeans but are not.  With that point, from another conversation we had months ago, I recall her saying, “it’s easy to tell skinny jeans from straight legged jeans.”  No mistake there.

There is a really cool video she likes by New Boyz called Cricketz and it’s about skinny jeans, she highly recommends it.  It’s a teen thing. 

So when asked, “what do you think about the different people who wear skinny jeans?”  She asked, “what do you mean by that?”  So I elaborated by asking ,”who should and shouldn’t wear them?”  She replied with one sentence, “folks with inappropriate thighs!”  Of course I didn’t expect anything less of what her comment would be.  Before she danced out of our room she added, “please work out before you wear them.” 

Months ago she and I had another, but more in-depth, conversation about skinny jeans when I said, “I think I’m just to heavy to wear them.”  She politely said, “No, mom, you could wear them.  They have them in your size and you would look good in them.  I just think people whose body is not made for them just shouldn’t wear them.”  It was a “hmmm!” sort of moment.

Now my daughter is the skinny jeans queen.  I lost count at how many pairs of skinny jeans she has over her regular and straight legged jeans.  It irritates her badly when she sees them  “inappropriately worn” and poorly coordinated.

Did you know that a school district in Texas went as far as to ban the pants from their entire school district?   This is because students were wearing them as part of their uniform and school officials did not feel them to be appropriate school attire.  Yep, that’s right.  And the reporter who covered the story in a Texas-based newspaper incorrectly stated the history of the skinny jeans.  There was a lot of controversy over the law to ban skinny jeans from the school district from what I can remember about the article, and many parents were outraged to the point that some parents took their kids out of the school.

Today it seems that a lot of younger people are wearing them right down to the young boys who ride around on their skateboard and bicycles.  Their pants are generally tighter than the girls and I hear some girls losing their mind crying, “Hey, his skinnies are NOT supposed to be tighter than mine!”  Even though their’s are just as tight.  I don’t let my daughter wear skinnies that are too tight because I know the health risk that goes along with it.  Read on.

But those of you old schoolers know that skinny jeans or skinny pants, as they were known back in the day, goes as far back as the days of Elvis Presley and the 1970’s and were favoritely worn by rock stars, later evolving from the stage to the mainstream retailers as they became the iconic fashion wear in the 80’s making their popularity sky rocket in the 90’s as they were transformed to be reinvented with an array of colors and styles, hence the low-rise that hit the market with a vengeance, that women who have no business wearing them are wearing them.  No shame there, right?

But getting down to health basics, and my daughter will agree, that with wearing skinny jeans comes the health factor, that if worn too tight they pinch a nerve in the thigh area, better known as the “tingling thigh syndrome,” or meralgia paresthetica (as medically known), which usually occurs with people that are obese or manual laborers, and is appearing in younger people.  Fortunately she has not experienced this.

The high demand of skinny jeans on the market has caused teens and twenty-somethings (and some in the maturer ages) to suffer from the symptoms of this particular condition. Experts say that they have seen a rise in this condition especially among young women.  In  a report I read in Health News, it was stated that one woman had actually described the feeling a tingly sensation that runs up and down her thighs while wearing the tight jeans.

Experts from the Mayo Clinic has described this condition in addition to the tingly sensation with a numbness, and the burning pain that occurs in the outer part of your thigh.  They go on to say that in most cases the condition can be relieved by conservative measures, such as choosing to wear looser fitting clothing.  But if you remember, several years ago experts have been saying the same thing about tight-fitting clothing and the health risks involved, that it tends to cut off your circulation by not allowing the blood to flow properly.  The constant pressure that is put on the thighs by skin-tight denim cuts off the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve, which is susceptible to compression.  And actually, this is the case with any article of clothing that is worn too tightly, such as leather.

In more severe cases of this condition, you may also notice a patch of skin that is sensitive to the touch and can sometimes be painful.  I am familiar with this because when I used to wear tight-fitting clothing when I was younger, I experienced this.  It is very uncomfortable and then there wasn’t much I knew about over the counter products that could be purchased to relieve the sensitivity and pain I felt. 

Although meralgia paresthetica is  not associated with signs of weakness or pain that radiates from the back, medications that are used to treat neurogenic pain, such as anti-depressant or anti-seizure medications, may alleviate the symptoms.  In a few select cases, in which the pain is persistent or severe, surgical intervention may be suggested or even recommended.

Skinny jeans are not the first type of pants to cause this condition.  The super low-rise jeans, which were most popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s, were also linked to meralgia paresthetica.  In the 1970s, there were also rumors that snug jeans also caused infertility in men and yeast infections with women.   I have not read or found any articles to substantiate this claim, however, I am still conducting some research.  Another website, Salon.com, does counter by saying that the condition may not be affecting a great number of people.  Kate Harding was quoted in saying, “Numbers are hard to come by, but I think it’s safe to say we could be talking about handfuls of young women.”

Should you show any symptoms of meralgia paresthetica, cease wearing those tight jeans, and seek medical attention if the pain persists.

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