Hey there, my name is Matt, and these ridiculously oversized pants are called JNCO jeans.
JNCO — which stands for "judge none, choose one" — gained popularity in the mid-’90s among the skater, rave, goth, hip-hop, and hardcore communities.
This is what I looked like during JNCO's unlikely reign of popularity.
Since the dramatic switch in popularity to skinny jeans, JNCO jeans have become a piece of ’90s nostalgia and a pop culture punchline.
...and shamed by our current teens.
And to be fair, the kids have a point. The opening at the bottom of the leg is 32 inches wide, which is the same size as my waist — and that's not even the most extreme option. Some JNCOs have leg openings as wide as 50 inches.
Late last year, JNCO announced that they'd be attempting a comeback.
So I decided that it would be a good idea to wear JNCO jeans for a week and see what happened.
Day 1: I seriously underestimated how self-conscious and embarrassed I would feel wearing these pants out in the wild.
Typically, I don't have much shame when it comes to wearing something out of the ordinary. I wore a Hawaiian shirt to my 10-year high school reunion, and I've had an irony-free mustache for over two years. I didn't think wearing a pair of pants would be that different.
I didn't sleep very well on Sunday night. I woke up with extreme stomach pain, which was a result of mixing spicy Szechuan food with my JNCO anxiety. I even needed to give myself a pep talk on my couch before commuting to work, because I was starting to question all of my life choices.
After I mustered up the courage to leave my apartment, I found myself searching for my reflection in storefront and car windows, double- and triple-checking to see just how foolish I actually looked. I was careful to not trip over my pants when walking up or down stairs, and laughed at the swishing of the pants as I glided down the street.
Physically, I've always considered myself the epitome of average, so I've been accustomed to blending in with the masses. Throughout the commute I noticed people doing double-takes and staring with confusion, but instead of feeling embarrassed it was oddly exhilarating.
Within my 25-minute commute to work, my shame of wearing JNCOs had morphed into a bizarre confidence.
Upon arriving to work, I quickly made my new look Instagram official to my friends and family.
And then I carried on with my day as if everything were completely normal.
I got my fair share of initial laughs — along with a Korn and Gathering of the Juggalos reference — but for the most part, the reception in the office was generally positive.
I began my attempt to understand what the JNCO lifestyle was all about — which I thought meant consuming an entire two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew that I kept in my back pocket.
I even tried to comprehend why JNCOs were popular among skaters.
Day 2: The initial rush of wearing the JNCOs had worn off, and the reality of how ridiculous I looked began to set in.
I woke up Tuesday and quickly realized just how hard it is to choose an outfit with JNCO jeans. Prior to this week I had been so concerned with the embarrassment of wearing the jeans that I never thought about what I would wear with them.
After staring at my closet for 20 minutes, I concluded that I lacked the required "No Fear" T-shirt collection to successfully pull off the look. The closest thing I would find was my AS Roma soccer jersey, and I unwittingly slipped deeper into my JNCO lifestyle.
Tuesday is unequivocally the worst day of the traditional workweek, so the initial rush of wearing the jeans had completely worn off. My jeans got caught on a sewer grate when I was crossing the street on Fifth Avenue. Luckily, I caught my balance, or else I'm not sure if I ever would have gotten up out of that intersection.
Now, this could have been a by-product of my bad mood, but the stares on the street seemed to be significantly more apparent. Even in the office, the jeans were no longer a sight gag — they were my pants. I was simply a guy who wore JNCO jeans.
All of a sudden I felt concerned about what other people thought again, especially when Lily Aldridge unknowingly cut me in line for coffee.
Day 3: I decided to let go of all my inhibitions and dive headfirst into a pool of ’90s nostalgia.
This is about when I decided to say "fuck it" and completely embrace the JNCOs. If people are going to stare and roll their eyes then I might as well give them something to actually stare at. I tossed on a Crystal Pepsi T-shirt and New York Mets bucket hat and strutted around New York City as is if I were the goddamn mayor.
All of my vanity and shame was stripped away, but my confidence was at an all-time high. It was 75 degrees without a cloud in the sky, and I was going to enjoy the day.
People around the office started to take notice of my "signature look" and newfound confidence.
That's when my little experiment started to gain some traction on Twitter.
Even this guy from The Intern took notice.
Eventually my dad caught wind of my awesomeness as well.
Soon I realized that wearing JNCO jeans doesn't even register as being that weird New York City.
I'm just another guy eating pizza...
...and enjoying a cold beverage.
Who likes to people-watch in Washington Square Park on a nice day...
...and is mesmerized by bubbles.
Remember, we all get rocks stuck in our shoes sometimes.
Day 4: I was still buzzing off Wednesday's high and started to feel legitimately cool.
OK, so I didn't expect this, but by Thursday I legitimately started to feel cool. Seriously, I'm not kidding. Maybe it was the unseasonably warm weather or the jeans had me in a trance, but I was enjoying myself. It was like waking up and knowing you're going to a ’90s theme party every day.
My girlfriend was even warming up to the JNCOs, which is a miracle on par with Lazarus rising from the dead. She even absentmindedly invited me to one of her work functions before realizing that I wasn't dressed appropriately enough to even get in the restaurant. She forgot I was even wearing them.
People in the office were genuinely complimenting me. They momentarily forgot I was even wearing them for an experiment.
I was killin' it.
I started to think I could get away with anything.
I even enjoyed a cocktail at one of the oldest and most prestigious steakhouses in Manhattan — and no one batted an eye.
Day 5: By this point I felt 100% comfortable in the JNCOs, and when I woke up in the morning I treated them like an old friend.
On my way to work I started feeling nostalgic about the week. I genuinely felt that in some weird way I'd miss wearing them — like how you miss having a Walkman. The pants were no longer a strange ’90s trend to me; I understood why people wore them. They're comfortable as hell, akin to wearing a denim comforter on your legs at all times. And they made me feel like a badass — not Bruce Willis in Die Hard — but somewhere near McLovin's confidence post-night out with Officer Michaels and Slater.
Over the course of the week I posed for pictures and talked to people in the office whom I've never met. It was like wearing a giant icebreaker. It was fun.
But there was one last hurdle to get over before I could hang up the JNCOs — the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden (aka bro central).
To say I wasn't the slightest bit nervous meeting up with my college friends to go to the basketball games at MSG would be a lie. It was one thing to walk around the streets of New York and my office in JNCOs, but to do it at a basketball game at the World's Most Famous Arena was an entirely different story.
As a sports fanatic, this was my environment — this is where I feel most comfortable. But when we made our way toward the entrance, I was just as nervous as I was on Monday morning. I felt everyone's stares — even the ones that didn't exist. A Villanova student in a straw fedora became the only stranger to heckle me publicly all week, and to make matters even worse my friend's tickets were in a company suite — where I'd have to socialize with executives while wearing JNCOs.
But the nerves didn't last long. Everyone laughed and lightly chided me for my pants, but my confidence quickly returned, and the game was an unexpected culmination to a strange but ultimately enlightening week.
WHAT I LEARNED:
1. Stripping away your vanity, ego, and shame is not an easy thing to do, but it's ultimately a fantastic feeling. It was empowering to wear JNCO jeans. (And that is the most absurd sentence I've ever written in my life.)
2. Trends are weird. Chances are we're all wearing or doing something right now that we're all going to make fun of in 20 years.
3. People who silently judge others for what they wear are incredibly stupid. So many people try incredibly hard to fit in, and they're afraid to stand out. The only thing that is embarrassing is their own bullshit.
4. Try something that embarrasses you. It can be really liberating.
5. JNCO jeans are [probably] not making a comeback.