I’m currently unemployed, through no fault of my own. Layoffs are funny that way. The kids are back in school, we’ve figured out the new routine, and I have nowhere to be three days a week anymore. It’s fine. I write. I clean out the basement. I cook a lot of fabulous, healthy snacks. (I put raisins in chocolate chip cookies, because fruit is healthy. And they taste awesome! Also, no one else in my family eats them, so, more heathy snacks for me!)
I also spend a lot of time on the couch, “resting, rejuvenating and reviving myself”—that is, watching TV. I’m kind of old school in that I don’t watch a lot of on-demand programming. I prefer turning on the TV, cruising the channels and being pleasantly surprised by what I find. That also means I watch a lot of commercials. Like I said, I’m old school, so I’m used to the dreaded commercial break.It gives me a chance to go to the bathroom, eat a healthy chocolate-chip-fruit cookie and move the laundry around.
One commercial absolutely mesmerized me. I thought I had blacked out and traveled back in time, a la Peggy Sue Got Married. I could have sworn it was 1985, but my iPad beeped with a Candy Crush notification, and I realized that I was still in 2015. Why the confusion? I was seeing an ad for the “hot” fall pants trend: stirrup pants.
I remember stirrup pants the first time they were “hot”: junior high, when every single girl in my class had at least one pair. The big question then was, do you wear the socks on the inside or the outside? As I recall, most wore the socks on the outside, giving the pants a tucked-in look. That, of course, meant no one could see the actual stirrup part of the pants, but it looked cool, and let’s face it, everyone knew who was wearing stirrup pants. If you fell into the socks-inside camp, you were slightly less cool. But it was still OK, because everyone could see that you were wearing stirrup pants, and that’s all that mattered.
While I’m sure they’ve had a modern update to bring them into this century, let’s face it: There’s not much they can do to improve stirrup pants. They are what they are, like a bra. You can put some lace on it, make it a pretty color, but in the end, it’s a bra. There are only so many ways you can dress it up.
Plus, stirrup pants are darn freaking uncomfortable. The woman in the commercial is wearing heels and strutting around the screen like stirrup pants are the most amazing pants ever. But I know the truth. The stirrup part is going around the bottom of her foot, right across the middle of the arch. It’s a thick, elastic strap that stretches when she moves, but only a tiny bit. Every time she takes a step, I know she can only go so far with her stride before the stirrup part reaches the end of its stretch and starts pulling the pants down. With each stride, the waist comes down a little bit more until she has to hike the pants back up in a most unsexy way.
As we all know, the bottom of the foot has approximately a gazillion nerve endings. That’s why our feet are so ticklish. It’s also why we can’t stand wearing stirrup straps for more than five minutes. The straps are constantly tugging on the bottom of the foot, and the weird, intrusive feeling never goes away. It’s like having the seam of your sock rubbing on your toe no matter how you rearrange it.
Personally, I don’t want to relive this at my age. The only place I want an elastic strap on my pants is at the waist. Back in junior high, we all got tired of that weird feeling and started wearing the pants like pants, with the stirrup things hanging off the backs of our legs. It looked weird, but it was comfortable, and eventually, the only cool way to wear them.
After that one year of stirrup pants, it was over. If you wore them the next year, forget it—you were not cool, no matter how you wore them. I predict that’s about how long this ill-conceived fashion resurrection will last. Not just because of the discomfort, but because the first time we wore them, we had no idea how much we would eventually associate the word “stirrup” with a trip to the doctor. No one who wore stirrup pants the first time around are making something we are more likely to associate with paper gowns and “scoot to the end of the table” a lasting fashion trend.
This article was originally published on