Jack Ohman

Op Image: Skinny jeans aren’t welcome on ranches

Skinny jeans work for models like this one at London Fashion Week in 2012, but Jack Ohman found he couldn’t pull off the same effect. That might be a relief: Research has found that cramming yourself into tight-fitting denim can cause nerve damage.
Skinny jeans work for models like this one at London Fashion Week in 2012, but Jack Ohman found he couldn’t pull off the same effect. That might be a relief: Research has found that cramming yourself into tight-fitting denim can cause nerve damage. Associated Press file

The news that so-called skinny jeans are being blamed for numerous health issues, specifically nerve damage, rattled the dozens of Americans who can actually wear skinny jeans in a flattering manner.

The rest of us? Eh. Not so much.

Here’s the skinny: Tight jeans have been around for a long time. In the 1950s, they were called pegged, but the dreadful 1980s forced a comeback.

They were then called “designer jeans,” as if Lee, Levi and Wrangler weren’t actual designers. Gloria Vanderbilt moved into the jeans turf, with ornate stitching and oh-so-painful physical positioning required to put the things on.

One colleague demonstrated how she had to lie on a bed and pull them up. Some are so tight, some people have suggested, that they seem to have been airbrushed on to save fabric.

For my part, I took part in the Designer Jeans Moment in 1984. I was 24, not fat, but not skinny. And yet, fashion slave that I was, I went along with the scam.

I recall the first pair I got, probably at Nordstrom. They cost north of $100 when $100 meant something, and easily could have doubled as a torture device in the Spanish Inquisition. I could imagine Torquemada telling me that if only I confess, he’d release me from the rack and remove the thumb screws so he could put me in designer jeans.

“Fine, what do want to know?” I would reply. “And tighten up those thumbscrews. I’m feeling loquacious.”

When I put the jeans on, they also had the corollary effect of making me feel slightly lightheaded. My blood pressure must have been 220/150, my face felt tight, but wow, was I fashionable.

My father-in-law, a former rancher given to jeans (real ones), noted that I looked like I would not be welcome at his spread.

I wore them a few times, mostly when I wanted to achieve a drug-free hallucinogenic effect, and when I wanted to feel like I was regularly exercising instead of actually exercising.

You can’t really sit in skinny jeans either, unless you want to sever your torso, and dancing in them was fruitless, too, given the nerve damage. In fact, there’s not one thing you can do in skinny jeans, including ever fathering children.

One day, after spending a few minutes putting on my designer jeans, I bent over to pick something up. My tongue stuck out like a python and the top button shot off its moorings like a 30.06 slug.

The skinny jeans moment for me was over.

In the Sacramento summer, I much prefer shorts. My work attire runs toward the roomier confines of Dockers and other middle-aged concessions. But I’ll tell you what really looks good to me now: Sansabelt.

No health articles about those, though I do wonder whether whatever chemicals they use to make the Sansabelt fabric might once day require a Proposition 65 warning.

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