Deconstructing the Boyfriend Jean

Thursday, October 22, 2015 - 10:04am

Consider the boyfriend jean that has gained a new popularity on campus, where hardly a passing period can go by without a stream of (female) students crossing the Diag in the loose, tattered jeans that sit attractively low on the torso. When we left for summer, jeans were still sealed up and adhered tightly to the leg. A few months brings a new silhouette and a new aesthetic. But is the boyfriend jean new?

The boyfriend jean ostensibly belonged to a boyfriend, stolen by the gamine who takes off with his sweatshirt and baseball cap too. But this isn’t cross-dressing so much as dress-up that brings femininity into sharp relief (that angular hip, the slip of tan thigh, etc.). The boyfriend jean writes its story on its leg: here is evidence of a partner, a brash sartorial confidence and a life ruggedly had, evinced by the holes that limbs poke out of. In short, the jean signifies authenticity, a scything through layers that mask the body, an emergence of organic flesh through all that fabric and a refusal to care about all this. If Adam and Eve clothed themselves with his-and-her fig leaves out of shame, boyfriend jeans illustrate that now what is his is also hers and can be tossed aside without shame. Boyfriend jeans show a commodity displaced from its ideal market, used long after it cycles out of fashion and until it can no longer work. Boyfriend jeans are anti-capitalist.

Of course, the boyfriend jean rarely has that backstory: Boyfriends, at least the boyfriends of well dressed female ilk, are about as likely to wear the stonewashed, slightly frumpy fit of dad jeans required for a good “boyfriend” jean as a chain wallet or neon windbreaker. The boyfriend wears jeans as tight as yours (this is 2015 gender equality) and maybe has a waxed pair too. We bought our pairs from Urban Outfitters or Citizens of Humanity. Therefore, this skin is rendered inauthentic when its emergence is prefigured by a factory that carefully fixes an identical set of holes onto an identical set of jeans, sewn for female bodies. In this way, boyfriend jeans render the skin that it reveals as artificial as the nature of itself. Boyfriend jeans are ontologically destructive.