Welcome to Fashionating, a column with scathing fashion truths you may not be ready to hear.
Denim is powerful. When crafted correctly, jeans can elongate the legs and provide shape to the waist, creating a basic palette that compliments practically anything you’d want to wear as a top. But this effect is far from guaranteed. Just a few inches of fabric can make the difference between disgusting garbage bottoms and elegance for days. It all comes down to the rise, with a true high-rise being the only acceptable design, no matter what Madewell wants you to believe.
Low-rise denim is so depraved it isn’t worth attacking: It knows what it did—it just doesn’t care. At least low-rise is forthcoming about how disgusting it is. I can respect that. Mid-rise—now that’s the real, pitiful piece of shit. This uncanny in-between design is a delusional faker, ultimately unable to deliver on anything because it can’t commit to actually being high, and is in denial about being little more than the undeniably warped and sadistic low-rise. Mid-rise jeans want you to think they’re the go-to option for normal pants, because low is extreme, and high is thought to be dated and too stylized. The result is a society infected by ill-fitting denim that fails at everything denim does so well when given the opportunity.
Jeans are an essential American garment, effortlessly binding together looks across the casual–fancy spectrum. They are also one of the most poorly crafted clothing items in most people’s wardrobe. Fast-fashion denim and trendy-but-stupid designer jeans tend to fit nobody, and their precious cotton content is often degraded with spandex. Good jeans are 100 percent cotton—not 98 percent. But I digress—the rise is far more misunderstood. Before I really take down mid-rise jeans, let’s establish the basics.
Jeans, like all pants, have a few measurements: waist, hip, length, inseam, and rise. The waist should—but does not always—reference the natural waist—the narrowest part of your body between your ribs and your pelvic bone. In the United States, we’ve bizarrely lowered the waist several inches below our belly button, at or just above our hips—thanks to low- and mid-rise jeans, when you think of your waist, there’s a chance you’re actually thinking about your hips. Length is measured from the waistband to the ankle. Inseam measures the seam on the inside of your leg, from your crotch to the bottom of your leg.. Rise is the measurement taken from the center top of your jeans, where the button is, all the way down to the crotch seam.
We’ve been tricked into wearing pants that stop just above our genitals for decades.
A low-rise is considered to be anything under 8 inches, and can go incredibly low, like under 5 inches (think Paris Hilton circa the early 00’s). Retailers will market high-rise denim with rise measurements as low as 9 inches, but that’s a filthy lie. True high-waisted jeans have between an 11- and 12-inch rise., and are the only acceptable jeans to wear. Anything with a 7- to 11-inch rise is mid-rise.
Mid-rise lands in the uncanny valley uncomfortably below, or just barely touching, the belly-button. Because of this, mid-rise jeans elongate your torso and shorten your legs, all while pushing your stomach out when you sit—and when you stand. Because we have a cultural misunderstanding of where the human waist is located, people might even wear mid-rise jeans and feel like they’re high-rise. We’ve been tricked into wearing pants that stop just above our genitals for decades. It’s time to change that.
Our country was traumatized by the celebrity obsession with so-called “sexy” low-rise looks 20 years ago, and as a result we’re embracing higher waisted denim—but because we still don’t grasp where our waists actually lie, we’ve unknowingly trapped ourselves in a low-waisted fashion nightmare.
The strongest argument against mid-rise jeans is the fact that only high-waisted jeans look good on the human body. Whether you’re tall or short, thick or thin, a high-rise is the most beautiful pant to wear.
Much of life is about understanding nuance, accepting the gray areas, and letting go of the idea that truth exists in black and white, or opposite extremes. But when it comes to jeans, there are actually only two, extreme options. A high-rise starts at 11 inches, and anything less than that is a low-rise, which means that mid-rise is nothing more than a ghost of the low-waist craze that died more than a decade ago.