By Jorie Mark
The biggest generational fashion fight since Boomers were told by their parents in the 1960s to “cut their hair” has to be the recent Generation Z proclamation that the skinny jean is dead. If you’re a Millennial or Gen Xer, surely you felt a moment of rage the first time this “news” was delivered to you—whether it was by an Instagram influencer, the office intern, or, worse, your teenage daughter (who also probably has opinions about your side-part.)
For what it’s worth…it turns out the young’uns were dead wrong about skinny jeans being dead. This leg shape remains an ever-enduring, fashion-forward, and flattering way to wear denim—and we’re still seeing it everywhere.
However: have you tried on a pair of wide-leg trouser jeans yet? Because if you haven’t…all we can say is come on in, the water’s nice. Wide leg jeans are surprisingly slimming, the extra width in the thigh collaborating with a high waist to whittle your midsection. And after years of pant legs clinging to your calves all day, it’s nice to get some breeze about the ankles.
Full disclosure: we’ll be helping ourselves to denim leg shapes of all kinds this season, whether skinny, flare, or somewhere in between.
One thing that remains a bit murky, though: what kind of shoes should you wear with a wide leg jean? To give skinny jeans credit the credit they deserve: they are so easy to pair with nearly any shoe, whether your footwear of choice is a tennis shoe, a ballet flat, a stiletto or a knee-high boot. A wide leg jean has so much volume at the hem, though, that many shoes may seem either too understated, or awkward, or both.
Not to worry—there are several options for shoes that work brilliantly with wide leg jeans. Here are our top picks for new kicks to add to your wardrobe that will play nicely with wide leg denim.
1. THE HEIGHT OF FASHION: HIGH HEELS + WIDE LEG JEANS
It is true that your favorite flats will get lost beneath the volume of a wide leg jean. That’s why you’ll want to counter the increased width of the pant leg with increased height in the form of a mid or high heel. Talk about a power play!
An especially sophisticated look is wide leg jeans with a feminine stiletto; we love the contrast of the street-savvy hem with the classic pointed toe and elongated heel. A simple black or neutral heel always will work, but feel free to experiment with lavish fabrics such as velvet and suede, or take a walk on the wild side with this Cheetah Calfhair Mid-heel Pump.
2. THE WOW FACTOR: WIDE LEG JEANS + WEDGE HEELS
Looking for a heel with a little more edge? You need a wedge! These shoes add height just like a stiletto, but the chunkier platforms tend to make more of a statement. Wedges also tend to be a more comfortable way to stand taller, since they distribute your weight more evenly from toe to heel.
One thing worth noting: the wide leg jean has its fashion roots in the 1970s-era bellbottom. Wedges were also big during that timeframe, so you could say that this pairing is especially simpatico. If you feel a bit too “hippie chick” wearing a wedge and flare jeans, however, a more understated alternative is a square heeled sandal, which also fits comfortably and offers a similar punch of style…but doesn’t run the risk of being costume-y.
3. STREET STYLE: BRING ON THE BOOTIE
We love a bootie with a wide jean leg. Both share a similar bold, urban-inspired aesthetic. Add a moto jacket and some oversized sunnies, and people will start asking you for travel tips for their upcoming NYC vacation.
So which bootie goes best with wide leg jeans? Really, anything goes…although you might want to save any ornate detailing at the ankle for a skinny or cropped leg. We like this Suede Studded Ankle Boot because the hardware will peek out under the hem. A simple black leather bootie is always a safe bet, too.
4. KEEPING IT CASUAL: PLATFORM SNEAKERS
High heels, wedges and booties all are very glamorous, but what about when you just want to run some errands around town, or plan to be on your feet all day? Can you wear sneakers with wide leg jeans? Indeed, you can—with a twist. The rule of volume applies to flat shoes just as it does shoes with a heel. That means your Keds or Converse sneakers might get “lost” with a wide leg jean. And the shoes you wear to run the track or kill it at CrossFit also could pair oddly with flare denim; save these for the gym, or at the very least, for athleisure.
That doesn’t mean sneakers are off the table, though—you’ll just want to choose ones that have a chunkier profile. We like the WBHM Animal Kicks Animal-Trim Sneakers, which have a 1” platform and gold and animal-trim accents. These are a nice, clean white color, but bolder colors and patterned platform sneakers are also a great option for wide leg denim.
So now that you have your shoe options, now it’s time to give those wide leg jeans a try. Whether you’re a member of Generation X, Z, a Millennial, or a Boomer, fashion-forward denim belongs to everyone.