Ready to Wear: The J Brand Houlihan cargo jean is selling like hot cakes

The relationship between clothing originally intended to be strictly functional and sex is often a barbed one – high-heeled trainers, anyone? Or how about a close-fitting designer parka?

New this season – and by now ubiquitous in the west London area – are skinny cargo pants. The J Brand Houlihan low-rise, narrow-legged variety (available in sand or American army green) is selling like the proverbial hot cakes, by all accounts. J Brand being the favoured jeans in this household, it comes as something as a blow to report that, well, they're all wrong – not to put too fine a point on it.

Why, I wonder as I stroll down the street behind an ultra-slender Notting Hill blonde in proud possession of a pair, does even she look like her legs are straight out of The Bill in these? (That'll be vintage Bill, obviously, not the now defunct glamourised version.) The dirty great saddle-bags – also known as patch pockets – neatly attached to her thighs might shed at least some light on this.

The people at J Brand may be clever, but Nicolas Ghesquière they most certainly are not. This designer's name comes up, of course, because around the turn of the millennium he gave fashion the cargo pants worn with killer heels style that quickly became the wardrobe of choice for everyone from Charlotte Gainsbourg to – eventually – All Saints (the tousled and generally golden Appleton sisters in particular). There was a deliberately deshabillé appeal to this look, however. Worn, as said trousers were, oversized (this is very important), not to mention ultra-slouchy and determinedly on the masculine side. and cut in hard-to-identify but clearly elaborate fabrics, they spoke of the luxury of not caring. And that is always a good thing.

Cross a garment that has its roots in military clothing with not even remotely functional skinny jeans that were, let's not forget, originally the preserve of the model off-duty (and for good reason), and don't be surprised when the effect is more We Need To Talk About Kevin (that is: clothes worn too small and favoured by psychopaths) than the height of fashion.

In the end, this style might have legs, all be they piano legs, but it's still a mixed message too far.

s.frankel@independent.co.uk

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