Good news for denim companies: Men still like 'em skinny

The denim gods have spoken, and it's official: skinny jeans -- for men -- are here to stay.

In today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required), reps from Levi's, Gap, Rock & Republic, True Religion and Seven for all Mankind proudly highlighted the fits and features of their newest skinny editions. And all of them reported the same thing: sales of men's skintight styles aren't slowing down.

The story outlines the various reasons for the skinny's popularity, which range from the desire of a gym-rat generation to show off their sculpted legs to the idolization of celebrities like Kanye West and Justin Timberlake, who have incorporated slim denim into their trademark looks. It seems that though skinny jeans aren't universally flattering, they are universally appealing, attracting wannabe bodybuilders and pop stars alike. They also seem to be de rigueur on middle and high school campuses.

That broad popularity has certainly translated into dollars and cents for Rock & Republic, the premium jeans brand founded by designer Michael Ball (who knows a thing or two about spandex silhouettes -- he was a cyclist and cycling uniform designer before starting the line). Ball told the Journal that sales of men's skinny styles are up 26% this year.

What the story doesn't mention is the advantage the skinny-jeans trend gives companies like Rock & Republic: the jeans are less expensive to make. Sure, many styles include special stretch techniques and other innovative functions, but the bottom line is, skinny jeans use up to a third less material than the average loose men's style. Plus, their sleek aesthetic doesn't lend itself to the add-ons -- colorful, intricate stitching; metal grommets; extra pockets -- that typically "justify" the price of a premium pair of jeans. Thus, the denim designers save money on detailing. But skinny jeans aren't typically priced far below their more ample and adorned counterparts: consider this skinny pair and traditional pair from Rock & Republic.

So: as long as skinny is in, companies will sure give customers the leggings-like jeans they want. If you're a brave guy, go for it. But don't forget that earlier this year, doctors cautioned that wearing pants as tight as plastic-wrap can cause permanent nerve damage; you could be taking a health risk as well as a fashion one.
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