I am confused by clothing lately, in particular, pants. Trousers have gone into disfavor during the past year due to the pandemic and the new norm of Zoom meetings that allows people to generally only show themselves from the shoulders up. Some people even seem to think that bottom clothing is optional. You know who you are!

Now that spring is here and people are going outside more, I often wonder what people might be wearing out in public. I question if pants, now called hard pants (as opposed to soft pants like sweats, joggers and leggings), are going to make a comeback. I read that many of us have gained weight, around one and a half pounds every month, so I thought that a combination of the two — like hard pants with an elastic waistband — would become the new trend. 

But, to my surprise, hard pants are thriving. There’s the full range of hard pants on display, from khakis to culottes, but most of all, it’s a jeanapalooza! Out on the streets of Cambridge and Boston, I see just about every imaginable combination of style, color and cut: skinny, mom and very wide leg. I don't see too many low-rise — thank goodness — nor do I see bootcut jeans. In the color department, I’ve seen a few white jeans and the typical blue and black varieties. I’m disappointed that I have not seen colored denim this year… yet, but given that I’ve witnessed Pippi Longstocking striped tights paired with floral Doc Martens and pink hair, anything is possible and everything is permissible. 

The New York Times says we are in a new denim cycle, and skinny jeans are mercifully out! To me, skinny jeans have always been a symbol of what to wear in the winter for the sheer practicality of being able to pull one’s boots on snugly. They are form fitting, and if the cut is right, make one look svelte as well. However, when I tried them out, I realized that I just looked like a sausage in a casing. In my experience, the sausage effect occurred no matter what the rise: alarmingly low, medium, high, super high or up to my ribcage. The impressive amount of lycra sealing these jeans around my ankles reminded me of Colin Firth in “What a Girl Wants.” Nevertheless, skinny jeans always have a place in my denim closet just for style variation.

Supposedly, baggy jeans are in now as well. Baggy, pleated, high-waisted denims are a truly hideous trend from the ’90s that, along with flannel, are just too counter-establishment for their own good. Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge on a warm, spring day can evoke the equivalent of a New York Fashion Week runway. I have spotted pleated, wide, baggy, acid-washed jeans. I’ve seen them paired with cringe-worthy homemade crop tops that are probably netting a small fortune for somebody on Etsy and so many rips that the jeans billow as the wearer walks. Both the jeans and I are distressed by this look. These typically get paired with a mom-style heritage purse from Coach that reminds me of my own Coach purses. Two thoughts course through my brain: “Hmm, maybe I need to drag out my old purses” and “Ugh.” 

Per Stylecaster, wide leg and retro-inspired jeans are also in, and this includes the wide leg from the ’70s. High rise, ripped at the knee, either ankle or super-long-dragging-on-the-pavement-length, I can’t understand how someone can walk for blocks in jeans that could literally set sail on their own. They should come with a safety warning: “Wearer may find herself airborne like a kite on windy days.”

Meanwhile, Who What Wear claims that straight leg vintage jeans are "it." These seem like a safe middle ground between baggy, wide and skinny. According to Emma McClendon, the author of “Denim: Fashion’s Frontier,” straight leg jeans have always been in fashion; it’s just that they were called Mom Jeans for a while and thus rendered un-cool. A nice straight cut pair of jeans that still looks straight when I wear it is an awesome find, even if that illusion of the perfect fit only lasts for a few days at most. I cannot quite figure out the gaping knee-holes, but I’m told that is for leg ventilation. Uhh, ok. It’s not as though these jeans are meant to be worn for protection in the vacuum of outer space. 

Bootcuts are trending again, offering a traditional yet modern look. To grown-up me this seems like an acceptable middle-of-the-road alternative to wide leg and baggy jeans. The shape balances a silhouette and keeps me from looking like a funnel. I might actually be able to walk in them!

Regardless of which type is currently in style, jeans remain the most popular hard pants for wearers of nearly all ages, though, in some office settings, they have been eschewed other than on casual fridays. With most people no longer dressing for work in the same way, it was expected that jean wearing, or indeed any form of hard pant wearing, would tail off with something else gaining prominence. Enter soft pants to fill the fashion power vacuum. 

Recent years had already seen a veritable explosion of soft pants options that became available for nearly every mood, if not certainly for every day of the week. That was before the pandemic. Now the myriad variations have multiplied enough to make my head spin. Through an exhaustive, or maybe just exhausting, audition process of athleisure haberdashery exploration, I was able to settle on the one form of soft pants that has emerged from the pack to rule them all: jeggings.

The more I think about this, the harder I find it to take any fashion trends seriously. As far as I can tell, we are still in a pandemic. In these circumstances, I think I’ll stay in my easy to wash, easy to wear, buttery soft leggings… or joggers. The ambiguous sizing goes well with the ambiguity of the future, and I know that they’re always in fashion in my house.