Who, What, Why: Are skinny jeans bad for your health?

  • Published
Mannequins in tight jeansImage source, ALAMY

Skinny jeans can cause serious damage to nerves and muscles, doctors have warned. Just how bad for your health is the definitive hipster garment, asks Jon Kelly.

Someone warn Russell Brand. Send help to the Duchess of Cambridge. Skinny jeans have long been the legwear of choice among fashionistas, but it appears there are health risks associated with dressing like Kate Moss or the bass player from The Strokes.

A 35-year-old Australian woman developed a condition called compartment syndrome, caused by bleeding or swelling within muscles, which an article in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry said was made worse by her skinny jeans.

It's not the first time tight legwear has been subject to health warnings. Other researchers have identified several cases where patients have developed pain or tingling in their thighs after wearing "tight new fashion low cut trousers". Men are warned that skinny jeans can lead to twisted testicles. They are typically urged to wear looser undergarments when they and their partner are trying to conceive, says general practitioner Dr Sarah Jarvis, because high temperatures are thought to have a negative effect on sperm production.

People with urinary tract infections are advised to avoid skinny jeans. Tight trousers have also been blamed for exacerbating heartburn by putting pressure on the abdomen, which in turn pushes stomach acid upwards - although Jarvis says this tends to be more of an issue when waists are cut unfashionably high.

But it's important not to overstate the risks, Jarvis adds. Compartment syndrome is a fairly unusual phenomenon and in the Australian case there was a "perfect storm" of circumstances. The tightness of the woman's jeans apparently caused her muscles to swell inwards rather than outwards, and the fact she was squatting for extended periods also worsened the situation.

People should be aware there's a small risk, says Jarvis - if you go to the gym and forget your tracksuit bottoms, it's best not to exercise in tight-fitting denims. But this is common sense. "I'm not going to give up my skinny jeans," she says.

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox.