Pusses in Boots, ’05

Nicole Leach, a petite peroxide blonde of 25, was standing inside the slick 10th Avenue bar Glass on a recent sodden evening, looking a bit like a risqué elf in a black camisole and bright red pants … tucked into knee-high, rubber-soled, maroon suede boots from Macy’s. “It’s about style, not something you’re wearing because it’s cold,” said Ms. Leach, who said she makes her living as a “performer.” “I like the way it looks. It evens your whole leg out.”

In Manhattan these days, it’s hard to find a girl who isn’t doing the Tuck. Across West Chelsea bars, sleek boutiques in Madison Avenue and grungy boîtes of the Lower East Side, the women of the city can be found peg-legging their jeans and parading around with them scrunched into the legs of their boots like crumpled bed sheets. They’re pulling sculpted stiletto boots up over trousers and walking around with them in plain view, like a pair of knee socks. Or they’re rolling their jeans up so that they rest just where the boot ends, thus shortening the appearance of their legs by about 40 percent. And somehow they seem to think this is a good idea.

“I think it’s super cute,” said Kristin Naiman, 29, a stylist who lives in Carroll Gardens.

“Rough and dirty,” enthused Toni K., a 27-year-old D.J. hanging out at Glass.

Outside the bar, Heather D’Angelo was heading home to Williamsburg, wearing black pants shoved into Michael Kors motorcycle boots from Bloomie’s. “I was kind of tired of the whole western-slash-equestrian thing, so I was like, ‘Fuck it, I’m going to do motorcycle,'” said Ms. D’Angelo, 25, a freelance art collector. She had a personal explanation for the sudden, mysterious appeal of the Tuck. “I saw this documentary about men in the 60’s-you know, the whole Beatles phenomenon. A lot of rock guys, they would tuck their pants into their boots. They were like, ‘Well, I just spent $500 on this pair of amazing boots, so why am I going to cover them?’ Especially when you’re poor and you spent all your rent money on boots-such as the case is with these.”

Frumpy Moms in Monterey

It seems a mass case of fashion nostalgia is responsible for the Tuck: a kind of Puss in Boots, frumpy-mom look that was last hot in 1982, the year of Flashdance and Gloria Vanderbilt perfume.

“It’s an hommage,” Ms. D’Angelo said. “I’m very G.I. Jane today. Very Winona Ryder, circa 1991.”

Her friend Erika Forster, 24, is a prop stylist who also favors the style. “I watched a movie about the Monterey Pop festival in the 70’s, and there were definitely boots over jeans there,” Ms. Forster said. “Referencing that kind of fashion is also referencing the kind of lifestyle and philosophy that many of us appreciate.”

The Tuck has its celebrity proponents too, of course. Kate Moss was on the leading edge of its revival, but blame is more aptly dumped on the skinny shoulders of actor Jude Law’s goofily chic girlfriend, now fiancée: the young starlet and fashion-magazine favorite Sienna Miller. “I feel like she’s the perfect example of the 70’s bohemian British rocker,” said Zoë Wolff, 31, senior editor of Domino, Condé Nast’s forthcoming home-décor “magalog,” who likes to push tapered Filippa K. Jeans into black Marc Jacobs boots with high heels and silver buckles. (Filippa K. is one of a few Tuck-appropriate, narrowly cut brands, which also include Stella McCartney and a brand sold at Henry Lehr called FRX.)

Mr. Jacobs-fond of mining past eras for his designs-is also partly responsible for the trend, according to fashion analysts who cite his fall 2002 collection for the bridge line Marc by Marc Jacobs, which featured cropped pants and high stacked-heel boots. Since then, said Roopal Patel, the women’s fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman, “it’s almost a natural evolution to have the boot over the pant. Women are becoming used to that idea of proportionality.” (Though Ms. Patel has some personal reservations. “On my body,” she said, “it’s much more flattering to have the full pant leg.”)

“It’s like ‘Drainpipe for 2005!'” said filmmaker Zeina Durra, 28, who lives and Tucks in the East Village.

Stacey Bendet, founder of the Alice and Olivia pants line, was just back from Aspen and reported that everyone there was sporting the look- après-ski and beyond. “This year is the first year that I maybe more than once wore boots with my jeans tucked in,” said Ms. Bendet, who recently bought two pairs of boots from Coach that could accommodate a scrunched-up pants leg. “Is it the coolest look in the world? No, but there’s something kind of cute about it. I think it’s sort of the aftermath of Uggs.”

Yet it’s not just last year’s ubiquitous Uggs but furry, moccasin-like Mukluks and brightly printed rain boots-gaudy galoshes, wacky Wellingtons-that have exacerbated the trend. Unlike the sleek stiletto boots of the early millennium, into which the firm-calved women of Manhattan had trouble struggling, this new round of boots is simply too wide for pants to fit over them.

And as the price tag of jeans increases-to a stunning four figures in some cases-who in her right mind would want to expose the hemlines to the oily puddles of winter slush in New York City? “It’s practical, really,” said Blair Voltz Clarke, 32, an art consultant who Tucks into Wellies she bought in England. Though, she conceded, “I think it looks really silly. Like you’re heading to the rolling plains of Wiltshire.”

Stacey Pecor is the owner of the Olive and Bette’s chain of boutiques, one of the city’s largest purveyors of Wellies-and assumes some amount of blame for the fact that women are now Tucking, tackily, into “indoor” boots. “I think it’s a little more difficult to pull off with a fitted leather boot,” Ms. Pecor said. “You have to be very thin to make it work, and your pants have to fit very well.”

‘Kind of Medieval’

Meanwhile, you’d think New York men would be just thrilled to see the females of the species wearing jeans stretched tightly across their bums, shoved into knee-high boots-but nooo ….

“You see all these girls who are like fresh to New York, they’re in college, they’re like 19 or 20 years old, they try to dress like … they do the jeans inside of their big white boots and try to do the ‘hipster rock slut’ look, but it’s also like, ‘I just moved here from Des Moines,'” said Jay Davis, 29, boyfriend of Ms. Forster, the prop stylist standing outside of Glass.

“To my eye, it doesn’t look nice, it doesn’t look appealing and I’ve seen it before-it’s just an old, tired look to me,” said Fazel Deen, a grandfatherly salesman at Barneys’ designer-shoe salon. “People wore it in the 70’s. It probably looked O.K. then or it looked good then. Certain trends can come back and they can be reincarnated and look good. That one should have been left in the 70’s. It doesn’t look right to me. It looks retarded.”

Building designer Oliver Freundlich (brother of Julianne Moore’s hubby Bart), 28, is sick of seeing the Tuck throughout the West Village. “It looks kind of medieval,” he said. “It reminds me of Robin Hood and his friends”-Friar Tuck?-“more like a costume than a stylish outfit. I don’t think it’s particularly flattering or subtle.”

“It makes the legs look stubbier. I think it’s just so much less flattering,” said Keith Newton, 30, a Carroll Gardens poet and the boyfriend of Ms. Naiman, the stylist. “It’s a little frame for the middle part of the body. It makes everyone look a little rounder.”

Ms. Naiman forges bravely ahead and Tucks jeans into boots anyway-though, she admitted, “there is some concern that it’s intrinsically unflattering.”

But this may not matter. The fact is, we’ve reached a moment where the Tuck signifies a certain anti-pack mentality, like wearing one’s sweatshirt inside out. Never mind that the pack seems to be catching on.

“It conjures so many looks, so I feel like it has great possibility-like a poncho,” said Ms. Wolff, the Domino editor. “It’s a weird scenario of ‘I kind of don’t endorse it, but I really like it.'”

She recently encountered Ms. Naiman, a friend, when both were wearing their boots over their pants. “We just sort of looked at each other and laughed. We know that it’s totally ubiquitous-you inevitably feel like you’re copying a trend-but we both still like it,” Ms. Wolff said.

“The problem I see with it most of the time is that people tuck the wrong pant into the wrong boot,” counseled Kate Young, 29, another stylist, who lives in the West Village. “I hate a skinny-heeled boot like a Jimmy Choo or a Manolo-type heel with pants tucked in. It’s unacceptable-completely gross. Or they wear the wrong pant, tuck it in like some kind of weird, baggy pant that then does this strange M.C. Hammer harem look. And I think people who are fat should never do it. I know that’s a horrible thing to say, but it’s not flattering. You just shouldn’t do it if you don’t want people to look at your butt.”

Flattering or no, it seems these broads are going to keep on Tuckin’, at least through spring.

“I can’t say I do it to be different, because everybody’s doing it,” said Toni K., the D.J. sitting at Glass, who favors Replay boots over her jeans. “It just looks unique to me.”

Pusses in Boots, ’05