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Giles Coren: 'It was like trying to force a condom on to a leg of lamb'

By Time Out London contributor
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Giles Coren welcomes medical evidence that skinny jeans are bad for you.

The worst thing about my youth was not the spots, the homework, the bullying, the lack of sex, the terrible '80s music, the dandruff, the football hooliganism or the shadow of the Bomb. It was drainpipe jeans.

I was not a fashionable kid. My mum bought my clothes until I was 23. And as she was a busy fulltime doctor I only got new outfits every couple of years, in a big bag from BHS selected by her at a sprint because she'd parked on a double yellow. After one trip in 1981, there was nothing in the bag but pastel-coloured polyester jumpers and girls' shoes. That was a tough year in the playground.

So when I came to her begging for skinny jeans, I got short shrift. I was too young to worry about fashion, she said. These were trousers for punks and yobs and people who called the loo 'the toilet'.

'But Tim Pinter's got them!' I wailed. 'And Charlie Stamford and Robin Brown. And Alex Peg even has a pair with zips on the side like Adam Ant!'

'Well, you’re not going out dressed as a pop-music person,' she said. 'Anyway, you’re not shaped the same as Tim Pinter. I doubt you’d be able to get them on.'

And she was right. Unlike my friends with their skinny English legs and flat bottoms, I was cursed, then as now, with the lumberjack thighs and elephantine arse of my Hungarian and Polish forbears. Great if you want to clean and jerk twice your bodyweight, like my great-great-grandfather Leo, a circus strongman in Plonsk in the 1880s, but rubbish if you want to squeeze your lower body into trousers the width of a girl's wrist. I had secretly tried on Tim Pinter's skinnies one evening after school. It was like trying to force a condom on to a leg of lamb.

But I bought a pair anyway, bunking off school with saved pocket money, and forced myself into them. Over the course of an afternoon, my body gradually rearranged itself upwards, squeezing everything towards places where my flesh could express itself. The trousers that made my skinnylegged friends look lean as cowboys made me look like a chicken. And as for my bollocks, after 14 years waiting for them to come down, my drainpipes rammed them straight back up again. So I tottered around, red-faced, bow-legged and sounding like the mice on the Bagpuss mouseorgan. Coolness had not been achieved.

Drainpipes did pass on briefly in the 1990s, when baggier fashions allowed me more comfort (though they made me look like a short, fat prisoner escaping jail in a bundle of laundry) but pretty soon they were back, and mocking my generous undercarriage all through my thirties and into my forties. The added bonus this time was that they were to be slung low, with underpants showing, so that now I looked not just like a chicken, but a chicken caught short on a scamper to the bog.

So imagine my delight when I read about 'compartment syndrome', recently diagnosed in an Australian woman who spent four days on a drip after her skinny jeans caused her to collapse in agony. Writing in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, doctors reported that the trousers had caused damage to the nerves and muscles in her calves due to prolonged squatting (ouch!) as she emptied some cupboards. This new horror associated with skinny jeans, the report goes on, is in addition to such previous drainpipe-related diagnoses as meralgia paresthetica - numbness caused by undue pressure on the pelvic nerve and, in men, reproductive problems (which one might call 'mouse-organ syndrome').

To defuse the ticking timebomb which Skinny Jean Syndrome surely represents to NHS finances in the future, what is needed here is a disincentivising tax on narrow trousers, in the manner of previous very successful cigarette and alcohol taxes. And if that doesn’t work, then in the name of thickset children and stocky grownups everywhere, I call for an outright ban.

The Horrors, The Horrors? Tweet him @gilescoren.

Image: Josie Marie.

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