Growing up in the 90’s exposed me to some ridiculous fashion trends. From L.A. Lights to parachute pants to Starter jackets and everything in between, the final decade of the millennium was chock-full of laughable and absurd clothing.
Perhaps the most memorable of these trends from a young man’s perspective were the heavy-denim, deep-pocketed, cartoon-embroidered phenomenon known as JNCO jeans. In an era where baggy pants = cool person, JNCOs were an absolute must-have for all middle school males looking to make a colossal splash in school hallways.
Priced at a preposterous $60 a pair, JNCOs were a tough sell to the parents during back-to-school shopping. I had better luck getting my mom to buy me the unrated VHS of American Pie than I did scoring a pair of JNCOs complete with a wallet chain. Made popular by the edgy, skater phase of the 1990’s, JNCOs epitomized the “I can’t believe I wore those” revelations of the 2000’s.
Characterized primarily by the giant back pockets which often reached the floor and pants legs which could shelter a small family, JNCOs were probably best remembered by the colorful embroideries which graced the seat of the jeans. These usually featured graffiti-like designs of the brand name accompanied by a character like Flamehead or Wolfgang, the product mascots, who regularly appeared in the mini-comics that came with the pants purchase. As opposed to today, where many jean styles look the same, JNCOs allowed for differentiation based on the prominent pocket graphics. Young buyers strove to obtain a unique pocket design in order to set themselves apart from the pack.
Often imitated by lesser-quality competitors like PACO and Zonz, JNCO dominated the bizarre jeans industry for the latter half of the decade. Around the time Carson Daly left TRL, the luster of JNCOs had fizzled out completely. Like many great fads, JNCOs were simply far too outrageous to last beyond several years. The 12-18 year old segment that had previously held them sacred finally outgrew them while the new generation failed to realize their awesomeness.
JNCOs may never make a comeback in my lifetime, but their impact on my young adulthood remains significant. I’ll surely never have as much pocket space as I did when I was 12.