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The Dangers of Tight Jeans, According to Research

Denim has made for some interesting case studies over the last few decades.
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(PhotoElena Dijour/Shutterstock)

(PhotoElena Dijour/Shutterstock)

The day after she'd been helping a relative move, a 35-year-old woman tripped and fell. As a result of the accident, the woman spent a subsequent four days in the hospital. The culprit here was not clumsiness; blame the woman's skinny jeans. While moving her relative, this unlucky lady had spent a good amount of time on her haunches, clearing out cupboards. Later that day, the woman's feet became numb, and the next day, she took the big spill. Apparently, squatting so long in skinny jeans compressed the nerves in the woman's legs, according to a new report in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

This is the first time anybody has reported in the scientific literature on the possibility of injuring nerves from skinny jeans, write the authors—neurologists from the Royal Adelaide Hospital in Australia. It is not, however, the first report of the health risks of tight jeans. Some other studies we found:

  • "Risk Factors for Bacterial Vaginosis": A study of more than 900 women in Italy found that those who wear tight jeans once a week or more have a slightly higher risk of getting bacterial vaginosis, a mild infection of the vagina.
  • "Tight Underpants and Trousers and the Risk of Dyspermia": This study, published in 1995, compared men with normal and abnormal sperm. The guys with abnormal sperm were more likely to wear tight jeans and underwear. Take this with a grain of salt, though. Despite 20 years passing between that paper and now, tight jeans still aren't considered a major risk factor for infertility, suggesting this line of scientific questioning eventually went nowhere.
  • "Tight Jeans as a Compression Garment After a Major Trauma": In 1984, doctors reported a case in which a young man wearing tight jeans came into the emergency room after a bad car accident. He had injured his abdomen and pelvis, but was in stable condition. When doctors cut off his jeans—which were too tight for them to just take off, in his state—his leg and abdomen expanded suddenly, his blood pressure dropped, and he collapsed. His jeans had apparently been keeping him from bleeding too quickly and his blood pressure steady.

Most tight-jeans case studies have happy endings. The man who got into a car accident left the hospital after 12 weeks, able to walk and have "normal bowel, urine, and sexual function." Doctors treated the skinny jeans-wearing woman with IV fluids, and she left the hospital able to walk unaided.

It seems the dangers of jeans can be mild, unproven, or relatively rare. Still, they show up in the medical literature periodically, following the periodic return of the garment into fashion. We were not made to wear compressing denim! But surely we were made to wear what would make our peers think we're cool, and in on it, and sexy, despite discomfort.