Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The trouser drop

This week's news of a fall in the inflation rate will be good news for purveyors of skinny jeans, as the width of the fashionable trouser leg tends to follow the cost of living, albeit in an inverse relationship - i.e. price inflation = trouser deflation.

You think not? Behold, my evidence ...

The zoot suit of the late 40s is often seen as a reaction against wartime rationing of cloth, though it could just be due to the absence of decent tailors, with many of them still serving in the forces. Baggy clothes are easier to make than figure-hugging ones.

The Edwardian style was consciously reintroduced by Saville Row tailors in the early 50s, but it quickly went rogue as working class boys spotted the potential while running office errands and minding barrows in the West End. The high-point of the Teddy Boys is considered to fall between the London opening of the film Blackboard Jungle in 1956 and the 1958 Notting Hill riots. In 1959 the rate of inflation dropped to 0.6%. Coincidence? I think not.

The 60s saw inflation bumping around but keeping below the crucial 5% level. This may be considered to be the trouser threshold. This febrile trend marked the increased volatility of fashion, but also the continued supremacy of narrow trouser legs with Mods and drainpipe-wearing Rockers. As the decade wore on, regency styles came to the fore and led eventually to the Summer of Love's flares, however it was only with the spread of the counter-culture after 1969 (notably loon pants) that legs crossed the threshold.

The 70s were a bleak decade with flappy trouser legs spreading to all classes and ages of society. The apogee was reached in 1975 when Oxford bags were reintroduced, ostensibly on the back of the success of the film The Great Gatsby. In fact, the econometric data makes it quite clear that this development, and the associated horror of shorter legs with tartan trimmings, was intimately tied up with the historic peak of 24.2% inflation and the associated breakthrough by the Bay City Rollers.

Fortunately, the first stirrings of trouser deflation were soon on hand with the release of Anarchy in the UK and the Ramones debut album in 1976. This was a brave attempt to drive inflation back below the 5% threshold, however it was thwarted by the counter-revolutionary forces of the New Romantics, Margaret Thatcher, and Kid Creole and the Coconuts (zoot redivivus), at the turn of the 80s.

The rate then dropped again, pushing below 5% in 1983 as trouser material was stockpiled ahead of the miners' strike. It spent the remainder of the decade bouncing around the threshold, in two minds as culture divided between the grim and skinny (Red Wedge) and the tanned and bouffant (Wham).

The turn of the 90s saw the emergence of the boot cut, a pseudo-flare designed for people who had hit 30 and decided to settle down. Jeremy Clarkson first appeared on Top Gear in 1988. The 90s also saw the re-emergence of ample-arsed trousers, both in the hip-hop-inspired sagging style and the baggy style of Madchester.

We have enjoyed levels of inflation below the threshold since 1992, however this may be a little misleading. The relative stagnation in the growth of wages during the 90s and 00s resulted in low inflation but increasing levels of personal debt. This was mirrored by the continuing confusion of the sagging style, which necessitated relatively narrow legs to avoid the jeans tripping up the wearer while running.

Coincident with the financial crisis of 2008, the last few years have been marked by the return of the skinny jean, a particularly anorexic version of the narrow. Combined with the continuing fashion for sagging, this appears to be a visible sign of deleveraging anxiety, as if the wearer were halfway out of a pair of jeans that were too tight to remove.

I rest my case.

No comments:

Post a Comment