Stretch vs. manliness: do men wear denim tights?

Call them stretch jeans, jeggings, ex-girlfriend jeans or what not - we're talking about men in tights. Tight jeans that is. While some men gasp in horror at the idea of wrapping their legs in stretch, others embrace the comfort the new trend provides. FashionUnited wanted to know how men like their jeans

and did a bit of research.

First, there's the assumption that jeans have to be 'manly' – rugged, tough, weathered, worn are the adjectivesStretch vs. manliness: do men wear denim tights? that come to mind when thinking of jeans for men, epitomized by pop icons like the quintessential cowboy John Wayne, rebel James Dean or the working class heroes that rock legends like Bruce Springsteen like to sing about. Now picture them in a pair of skin-tight jeans instead of the rigid version. It's quite a stretch, isn't it (pun intended)?

Cowboys, workers and rebels wear rigid

Those who have tried – like Lil Wayne at the Video Music Awards in 2011 for example – have been bashed, verbally, and called 'androgynous', 'shameful', 'fake' and worse. All for wearing a bit of stretch? At the same time, discussions on internet forums indicate that men are actually getting quite comfortable with their stretch jeans. In fact, elastane percentages seem like the new thing to know and boast about.

“James Jeans are two percent Lycra, which gives them a little bit of a stretch. I'm a fan of them” admits a user called Aardvark on member-to-member help site Ask Meta Filter in a thread on where to buy men's stretch leg jeans. “Most comfortable and well-fitting jeans I have ever owned” enthuses The Deej about his Costco Urban Star jeans that “have a little spandex in them”.

The denim look (and feel) is certainly important too: “I have a pair of Levi's that are stretchy as well. Still feels and looks like denim. They're great!” says Grither in the same discussion. Levi's also markets “commuter jeans” designed for riding a bike on the way to work that allow freedom through stretch wherever needed. Durability is also important as stretchier jeans allow for sporty activities like rock climbing where stretch and durability are of utmost importance.

In fact, some jeans fabrics like ISKO's Reform XP offer 80 percent elasticity ・that's a steep increase from the usual 50 percent. (In case you were wondering: to find out the elasticity level of a pair of jeans, there is an elasticity test that can be applied. During such a test, weight is put on a denim fabric for 30 minutes, after which it is measured to see how much it has expanded. This is based on international elasticity standards and should be between 0-1 percent, which means that the jeans will stay in shape.)

To find out even more about stretch jeans and men's preferences, we've asked someone who should know: Marco Lucietti thinks about denim pretty much 24/7. As the head of worldwide marketing for Turkish denim maker ISKO, he is constantly selling new denim trends for men and women and finding markets for them. According to him, men do appreciate the growing stretch content in jeans: "There is a dichotomy between the rigid concept and the stretch concept. Stretch denim is an important area and attracts all those consumers who are looking for a new level of comfort and fit. It has become the first choice of women and even men appreciate it, especially in the UK, Japan and in the US."

Stretch jeans have their specific markets

He admits that some men do resist stretch and there's even a country specific preference: "Only in Italy and Germany there is a sort of 'resistance' among masculine targets, because men in these countries see stretch as a potential threat to the masculine identity of denim."

According to Lucietti, not the product is to blame but the information about it. "When elasticity is too overtly declared, this still risks to compromise the masculine identity of jeans – but it’s all a matter of correct explanation to be given to consumers." In addition, new denim concepts have reacted to men's resistance and have toned down the stretch aspects: "Today’s innovations, like ISKO XMEN’S™ and ISKO LOOMFX™, have a hidden flexible technology that assures comfort without compromising the masculine look, so men will be able to re-discover elastic fabrics." So the old debate of stretch versus manliness should be a thing of the past soon.

WomenStretch vs. manliness: do men wear denim tights? have eagerly adopted stretch

The reasons why women have fewer problems with stretch and have readily adopted the new trend has not only to do with the jeans image but also with the way men and women buy jeans, their different macro purchasing behavior in marketing speech. While "men pay a lot of attention to denim fabric and its sensory qualities, women give priority to fit, style and design, considering the fabric just one of many aspects", according to Lucietti.

He explains this difference in approach: "Because men are more connected to the essence of denim, the very, very heritage approach where denim is something strong, something rough, something very masculine. Women buy a pair of jeans to feel sexy, comfortable, especially on the legs and the back."

For Lucietti, there really is no debate. "How can anyone have an aversion to comfort?" he asks. "When talking about stretch, some may associate it with something feminine but one also has to take into account the comfort. And who would not like to be comfortable? That's why the percentage of stretch has dramatically increased among men. Elastic is the future", he adds.

As for his own preference, Lucietti has no problem with stretch but sees jeggings as one option among many. "I do wear both, stretch and rigid jeans. It depends on what I'm doing, how I am feeling. What I am in the mood for. The main thing is to be free to wear what you want." We fully agree with that.

Photos: Naked & Famous Super Skinny Guy Wax Coated Black Stretch; Outlier Climbers; ISKO LoomFX; at a rodeo (cjuneau)