I was hoping the low rise jeans trend would die quickly. I was wrong. –Mother Jones

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If I was a naïve 22-year-old in the early 2000s, looking at pictures of Paris Hilton wearing pants with a two-inch inseam, I’d think, “That’s hot.” For those around that age now, who were babies then and eager to replicate the iconic look that seems to be making a significant comeback, a few words of warning: you don’t know the misery of these pants. Your upper behind, exposed to the cold winds of a college math class, just waiting to be poked from behind by Tyler with a pencil. Wilton couldn’t make a mold that created a more perfect muffin top than one bolstered by low-rise jeans. And then there are the physical demands. I believe my repetitive musculoskeletal injuries are due to me pulling my shirt down to reach that low waist all day. (Come to think of it, if you were a teenager then, you might deserve some kind of hardship compensation.)

And now, despite all the obvious discomfort, once again the downtrend seems to be returning. It already happened in a 2018 article in The cup warned, describing them as “the masochistic pants of choice.” Fast forward to the beginning of this month, Refinery29 reported that second-hand retailer thredUP tracked a 50% increase in searches for low-rise jeans in early 2021. Now the tracks are making that official. From the comfort of my home in February, Black History Month and Fashion Month – I scrolled through TikTok and the runway looks made it clear: model after model, pants slung over the hips and a cute little crop on top.

The beginning of the year 2000 is back.

Usually every twenty years a trend is recycled, so we’re overdue for a throwback to the early years. The longing for nostalgia has been heightened by the pandemic, the invasion of Ukraine, not to mention the crisis of democracy at home and abroad, all conspiring to make this time so turbulent.

Researchers say nostalgia is a dynamic that demonstrates that people seek peace and refuge. Gen Z have been the hardest hit by all of these forces, when their lives were meant to take off, the pandemic brought them to a halt. Their already high-profile lives were forced to go almost entirely virtual upon graduation and started working online during the pandemic. “While we love the internet, the severe effects of the pandemic on in-person interaction have made the digital world pretty much all we have,” said Michael Pandowski of Gen Z marketing firm Crimson Connection. Initiated. “So we’re nostalgic for a time before the internet became so ubiquitous.

Paris Hilton could be considered the queen of Y2K low rise jeans.

Jean-Paul Aussenard/Getty Images.

But some people’s nostalgia can be a trigger for many, especially us millennial girls. These pants are not just another pair of jeans, but signifiers of the charged messages of sexuality and body image that were so ubiquitous at the time. The pants were hypersexualized and threatened to “give it all away” while challenging and embodying the cult of purity culture. Remember, that was when the Bush administration pushed abstinence-only sex education.

Journalist and digital expert Gabrielle Korn said it better than I ever could in In the style, “These mixed messages of chastity and performative sensuality paved the way for low-rise jeans,” she writes, “they were not just in fashion, they were ubiquitous.She remembers the boys in her class—and mine, and probably most other girls who were in middle school and high school at the time—trying to throw pennies in the pants. The pants seem to represent a when boys (and men) were told to do whatever they wanted with girls (and women) without consequences (remember Justin Timberlake at the Superbowl?)

These pants were popular before the body positivity movement became mainstream, when supersize me scolded everyone about their eating habits, and when the evening news showed a b-roll of fat people marching through the streets in an effort to instill fear over the “obesity epidemic,” not to mention laughs cheap and degrading. Well, those pants weren’t worth anything if you were lucky enough to have even modest amounts of flesh.

In some ways, it makes perfect sense that low-rise jeans are making a comeback again; it could be a way to announce that someone is “done” with the extreme comfort of anti-pandemic fashion. We’re ready to shed our sweatpants, damn it, and maybe even vulnerable enough to show off our most zaftig bodies. Sizes on today’s runways are more inclusive of different proportions. Does that mean these jeans are for everyone, regardless of BMI? Perhaps. And maybe all the “Tylers in math class” have learned that jeans aren’t an invitation to inappropriate touching. If so, maybe they’re not so bad after all.