2008 Comeback Stories: Pegged pants

This post is part of our series on people, places and things that have found new life in 2008.

I was a child of the seventies, so my grade school pictures are liberally sprinkled with earth-toned turtlenecks, polyester leisure suits, and bell-bottoms. The thing is, though, when I was a kid, I didn't see these as styles or fads. They were just clothes, like meatloaf was just food or my dad's AMC Hornet was just a car. This means that when bell bottoms came back a few years back, I didn't feel any real sense of nostalgia. For me, it was like they were brand new.

When it comes to fashion, though, the one constant is that each generation's sartorial disasters inevitably find themselves dragged out out of the closet and regurgitated for the next group of suckers. Soon enough, people were sure to tire of resurrecting the seventies and would switch their focus to the eighties.

Pink clothing for men hasn't really made a comeback yet, "Members Only" jackets are still on the outs, and I've been spared the sight of leg warmers (at least for the time being). However, narrow ankles are once again on the march. The bastard child of a thousand GAPs and a few dozen teen-oriented flicks, the narrow-ankled look had two standard variations: the first version was the infamous tapered jeans. These were generally used for day-to-day wear. Sturdy and durable, their tight silhouette and awkward cut made wearers seem gawky and vulnerable, yet stylish in a spidery kind of way.

On men, the tapered look was cut relatively snugly all the way through the leg, tightly conforming to the calf as it neared the ankle. In women (and Anthony Michael Hall), this got more extreme, achieving an almost sprayed-on look, a la Olivia Newton-John in Grease. The most disastrous version of this look is the tapered ankles that stop, high-water style, an inch or two above the actual ankle. Needless to say, this looks stupid on anyone except Molly Ringwald, who somehow made it seem moderately attractive in a couple of Hughes' films.

You're probably thinking that nobody in his right mind would want to inflict this horror on the notoriously generously-sized American public. I will point out, however, that this dreaded article of clothing is currently being resurrected by European designers. Draw your own conclusions.

The second version of the narrow-ankle look was the late, great pegged pants. Personally, I always thought that pegged pants were incredibly cool, indicative of a tortured (yet creative) soul, and a transcendentally stylish fashion statement. My wife, who is a few years younger (and never really got it), has informed me that I'm clearly on crack.

History will be the judge.

At any rate, pegged pants are cut loosely throughout the leg, but bind tightly around the cuff. Sometimes they are tailored that way, but generally they are baggier pleated pants that are pegged by the wearer. This is done by tightly wrapping the cuff and then either pinning or folding it. The final effect looks like a cross between a 1940's gangster and MC Hammer in the "Can't Touch This" video.

John Hughes, the great bard of the 1980's, featured the ultimate pegged pants look in his magnum opus, Pretty in Pink. All the male characters in the film pegged their pants, but John Cryer's Ducky Dale took the tight-cuff look to an unheard-of level of cool. In the final scene, clad in an blue embroidered tux and a bolo tie, Ducky sported a pair of tailored black pants that showed off his shapely ankles while boldly declaring his sartorial bravery and his ability to defeat the preppies on their own turf. While he may not have ended up with Molly Ringwald, the Duckman's amazing clothes got him Kristy Swanson and a permanent place in the pegged pants pantheon. It goes without saying that geeks across the country immediately copied him.

So there you are. For good or ill, tight ankles have returned, which means that you will now have to face the most brutal of questions: will you be a gawky jean wearer, or are you Ducky?

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate.

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