Monday, March 16, 2009
What could possibly be more flattering than looking like you were standing in two giant logo-emblazoned, hem-dragging overturned denim buckets? No one seemed to bat an eye over the fact that each pant leg could easily house a family of four. JNCO jeans epitomized the rise of the pseudo-"street" poseur movement so beloved by 1990s middle class white kids. Their idea of the mean streets may have been a lemonade stand that refused to accept credit cards, but they could rock a mean pair of ultra wide-leg jeans.
With charming style names like "Mammoth" and "Fatboy," who could resist these grotesquely wide dungarees? The most offending specimens featured a whopping 50'' leg opening measurement, compared to the average 20-some inch leg openings on men's pants today. JNCO jeans also featured mutantly large back pockets that engulfed nearly the entire length of the pants:
JNCO jeans were a prime example of middle-aged marketing teams capitalizing on the 1990s-era growth of youth consumer buying power. With (oversized) pocket money to spare, kids of the 90s were a rapidly growing demographic over whose newfound purchasing power hungry marketers fought viciously. Ad executives spent a great deal of money convincing young people that JNCO jeans were emblematic of their unique sense of youth countercultural rebellion. In the mid-to-late 1990s, the JNCO brand claimed to "deliver[...] the hippest denim jeans and phat styles to satisfy the demands of even the most hardcore hip-hop, skater and music oriented sub-cultures." What, are you trying to telling me this wasn't written by real, live 1990s youths? But they spelled phat with a p-h! And they know of our desire to be "hardcore!" How did the JNCO ad team ever crack our cryptic youth slang code?
The brand epitomized the rising awareness amongst marketers of poseur skater culture. Suddenly, all it took was a pair of obscenely wide-leg jeans to brand oneself to a supposed teen subculture. Parents hated the tacky embroidered logos and the inevitable ratty,ragged hems resultant of the pant legs constantly dragging on the ground; their insistent disapproval encouraged young people that these pants were indeed an affront to the Man, despite the fact that He was the one producing them. The JNCO brand struck a chord with young clothing consumers, particularly with the company's comic-book magazine ad spreads featuring real-life JNCO jeans-wearing models in cartoon settings. Though the brand was originally formulated as a men's and boy's line, JNCO later added a women's line featuring similarly unfortunate wide-legged styles. These were equal opportunity jeans: determined to unflatter any and every type of figure, male or female.
The immense popularity of JNCOs proves that the 1990s were less about looking good and more about fitting in. Never before had an alleged subculture been so carefully calculated by the Man. No longer were our counter-culture trends originating from idealistic hippies or bitter Generation-X musicians. Rather, children of the 1990s unknowingly began to increasingly rely on grown-ups to dictate their trends. The definition of "cool" was more and more frequently prescribed by a group of adult business professionals sitting around a boardroom table. Young people seemed oblivious to the fact that badges of counterculture by definition should not cost $60 a pop. The tide of trend-setting was changing, and the Man was at the helm.
Nevertheless, JNCO jeans represented a paradigmatic shift in the way young people defined themselves. Suddenly, you did not have to believe in or even particularly care about anything particular to associate yourself with alternative youth culture. You could actually buy your way into tween-age rebellion in a way that was antithetical to all past counter-cultural norms. All it took was a willingness to be engulfed by enormous pants.