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Ladies…those of you of a certain age (ahem) remember the miracle that was “Chic Jeans” — the high waist, the medium-to-dark wash, the peg leg, the gold scrolly letters proclaiming that you were, in fact, “chic” (pronounced “chick” but whatever) – oh, the grandeur! Okay, so the truth is they were soooo very 80s … the other truth is that if, in the 80s, you couldn’t afford Gloria Vanderbilts, you wore Chic jeans and pretended they were just as cool. The question is (for those of us who don’t have anything better to think about), whatever happened to Chic Jeans anyway? Well here’s the scoop: they still exist. We know—take a moment.
Chic Jeans…We Miss You…Sort of
If you Google it, a warning—the current Chic Jeans website will make you feel like you’re shopping to gear up for next week’s PTO budget meeting smack dab in the middle of Midwest U.S.A. (I live in St. Louis, I can play that card!). Upon navigating through the site, we come upon the categories “scooter pant” and “back elastic pant”. Okay, forget the PTO, we’re heading straight for the nursing home apparently. Back in the day, they were touted as “the world’s best fitting jeans”. Their current marketing angle? “Nothing feels quite as good as being comfortable”. Which the number of pairs of yoga pants jammed in our drawers can attest to, but it’s not the leading statement in our style philosophy. Nor is it what we were thinking when we were rocking that pair of Chic Jeans that could never be quite narrow enough at the ankle with a crop top and high-top Reeboks. But we digress.
The company itself is, per its website, currently owned by the VF Corporation, which also is the parent company of other practical denim-based lines as Wrangler, Lee and Riders as well as more hip brands like 7 For All Mankind, Rock & Republic, Vans and The North Face. Weirdly, however, if you visit the VF Corporation website, it doesn’t list Chic among its brands. We did reach out to VF, who said that Chic IS part of their stable of labels, but they have no idea why it isn’t listed on their site. But we guess if they’re not concerned, neither are we.
A little history: founded in the 1920s, the original parent company (known in the 1960s as Henry I. Siegel Co., or H.I.S.) produced jeans under department store brand names, later creating the “Chic” label in the 1970s with a focus on being “proportioned to fit”, which any tall or petite girl can tell you, is a critical—possibly genius, for the time—selling point.
Times got tough, however, for the brand that in the mid-80s was second only to Levis and Lee in production of women’s jeans – heavily dependent on troubled budget retailer Kmart, by the mid-90s Chic jeans were, well, not-so-chic anymore. A continuing decline in the U.S. notwithstanding, the Chic brand seems to have maintained a stronghold in Europe well into the late 1990s. While the brand name Chic seems to have all but vanished there as well, H.I.S. jeans appear to still be a force in fashionable denim in Europe to this day.
While Chic elastic-waist pants are apparently available on the Walmart and Kmart websites, a “where to buy” search turned up not one single store location where we could go to purchase Chic jeans. Not in Missouri, Illinois, New York, California, Texas, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, American Samoa or Guam (we got tired of playing with their store search function after that—not really even sure at this point why it’s there). Not that it really matters; we figure it’ll be a few more years before we’re in the market for medium-wash, tapered-leg, high-elastic-waist pants. Until then, Chic, we will cherish those affordable not-quite-Calvin-Klein-but-good-enough-for-us memories.
Side Note: If you were ever thinking of Googling “History of Chic Jeans”, don’t—it only brings up a spammy link whose keywords also include “hepatology”, “nylon” and “granny”. Plus other stuff. Resist the urge.