Colombia: Is it something in the jeans?

I‘m a tall woman and, depending on the proximity of chocolate cake and opportunities for wine consumption, a slim one. In fact, I was so skinny as a teenager they used to call me “sticky” instead of Vicki and wondered if I would ever grow curves. Politer people still asked if I wanted to be a model when I grew up, which was laughable given that you would struggle to find a woman with less fashion sense than me.

It is not that I dislike fashion. I secretly love the colours, the creativity and the freedom of it all. I love looking at what other people wear. I am an open admirer of risk and diversity. It’s just that I struggle to dress myself and even when I do make the effort – all my dresses are basically the same.

In the beginning that made me a good fit for Bogotá. There are no seasons here, so once I realised I could wear my floral English dresses, leggings and boots all year round – I was sorted. Sorted that was, until I stopped being a tourist, became an adopted Colombian and my friends started to take note of what I wore.

It was my second-cousin, visiting from Australia, who noticed it first. “I have never seen so many people in jeans,” she said. “I mean the jeans in Colombia are amazing, probably because the ass part is bigger, but don’t people want to wear anything else?” (that was in 2011, long before leggings crossed the pond)

Jeans were an epidemic, so much so that when I bought my first pair of skin-tight Colombian denims, a good friend said to me: “Now you’re a Colombian girl.” Hmph. It has hardly been a blossoming romance.

It rains all the time in Bogotá. All the bloody time. And there is nothing sexy nor pleasurable about having damp denim stuck to your thighs. Jeans are also dull as dishwater. Yes you can buy them in pink, red and royal blue (I have all three) but they have had the same design since the 1950s. Wear a good dress, on the other hand, and the world is your oyster. (Do I sound grumpy? I should probably confess that I once wore a too-tight pair of jeans to a fabulous Bogotá nightclub and couldn’t move a muscle all night. Our relationship has been doomed ever since)

So you can imagine my horror when I visited a good friend in Cartagena at Christmas, he took one look at me and said: “You haven’t changed at all. You do know it is okay to wear jeans here don’t you?” For the uninitiated, the temperature in Cartagena has been known to hit 41°C and don’t get me started on the humidity.

But it turns out that little episode was only the start of the “2014 Jeans Horror” – I went on a few dates with a lovely Colombian, well, lovely apart from his obsession with the very article of clothing that brings me out in hives. I discovered this accidentally when I inexplicably dug out those too-tight jeans from two years ago (why, why, why?) and wore them to a party with him.

“You look amazing,” he said, genuine wonderment spreading across his face. “Why have I never seen you in jeans?” He wouldn’t stop going on about it, even though a) compliments about appearance are not my thing (I am a sucker for flattery relating to my work or nerd qualities, just so you know) and b) I really hate those jeans. All I said was: “Hmmmmm.”

A month later he invited me to a birthday party. “Great,” he said, when I agreed. “Why don’t you wear the jeans you wore to that last party?” There was a pause while I remembered the full, damp, post-shower horror of trying to get into those jeans. Foolishly, I agreed.

An hour later he called me back. “Hey Vicki. There is actually a really nice party at such-and-such a bar in the Zona T too,” he said, naming one of my favourite bars – a place I haven’t been to since I pretty much gave up the Zona T. “Would you like to go there after the party?”

“Yes,” I said, immediately. “But you know I can’t go there in jeans. So I’ll just wear one of my dresses.”

“Fine,” he said and hung up.

An hour later he called me back. Again. “You know, I was thinking,” he said (always dangerous) “It’s probably a bit rude if we just abandon my friend’s party. So would you mind if we just stayed there for the night? And, you know, you could wear your jeans.”

The pause that time was not a pause. It was a chasm. If you are incredulous that this is the third conversation I am having about a bloody pair of jeans, I assure you it is nothing compared to how I felt. I was so perturbed, I forgot to draw my curtains when I got dressed. The whole of Chapinero saw me jumping up and down on one leg, forcing my flesh into the world’s most unforgiving article of clothing.

“Where is this party?” I said, when he came to pick me up. A bar in the Zona T, he said. Can you believe it? Thanks to the jeans-based drama, I had assumed it was a house party. Now I would have to suffer in a hot, sweaty bar. My penance for being a 31-year-old woman who accepts being told what to wear.

The first person we saw was the birthday girl. She was wearing a dress. Then we saw her best friend. She was also wearing a dress. Me? Dancing was out, sitting was a struggle, standing up was comical. I ordered two mojitos on the trot and resolved to sweat it out.

The night ended at 2am.

“Did you have fun?” the Colombian asked me, helping me manoeuvre myself gingerly into a taxi. “You looked really nice by the way.”

“Thanks,” I said. Then I came home to my house, where there are lots of pretty dresses hanging in the wardrobe and a rather large pair of scissors in the kitchen drawer. Because hot pants are back in fashion… right?

Like this? You’ll love Colombia a comedy of errors.


  1. Julianna

    The weirdest things do happen to you! Usually guys like girls in pretty dresses. And yes, hot pants are a thing now. Although, what kind of jeans do you own? I love mine because they are so comfortable to the point I have fallen asleep in them…

  2. alittlecameo

    Vicki this is brilliant and absolutely spot on! I am another fan of the dress. It’s so beautiful, never leaves you with a muffin top and it is FEMININE!

    I don’t understand the obsession with jeans either. My Colombian has a severe distaste for my lovely vintage dresses. He loved seeing me wear jeans in winter in Australia. Fast forward to living in hot, humid Santa Marta and he lamented that I never wore jeans (all girls were wearing them and he even admitted that he hadn’t seen his sister’s legs in years). The two times I wore jeans when going to the cinema he was like a drooling little dog who couldn’t stop raving about how good I looked and assorted other comments about my backside. Now in Bogota where I wear jeans regularly (though never a pair of Colombian jeans) my Colombian tries to get me to wear them with sneakers which is one of the ugliest things ever in my opinion (street shoes don’t count as sneakers).

    I think it’s also worth mentioning that the ugly polyester skintight pants women here wear to work (in lieu of their skintight jeans) should be banned. There is a) nothing professional about that b) it can’t be comfortable sitting with a camel toe all day and c) it’s not the best way to get a promotion.

    Long live the dress!!

  3. KZ

    I think It is accurate, and never realized that until I left the country (or perhaps Bogota), and start to wonder why girls bother too much on buying dresses when they can use jeans. Jeans are comfortable, simple, and cheap. Jeans are somehow “democratic”, can be accessed by almost anyone and therefore they are wore by almost everybody. They can be used always around the year no matter the weather cold, hot, rain (ok little unconfortable), windy. Sure, you can buy and wear dresses, but somehow, the “price” looks evident on dresses. Jeans hide this a little bit more. Jeans are sexy, they don’t show skin, but show some shape, and I think that’s more interesting, (who knows, maybe we are crazy about shapes). Sure, I love women on dresses, but only for special occasions, not for everyday life, where you have to take buses, survive Transmilenio, walk at least 20 minutes, and deal with all kind on “obstacles”. Jeans are therefore comfortable and show an “all-terrain” woman, you can seat anywhere, go everywhere, do anything. Jeans are convenient, You can wear them almost everyday and never look the same – granted you change you shirt/jumper, you have to change dress every day, and at some point someone will notice the wardrobe, Jeans will save you money and save you from the craziness of continuous shopping.
    Go jeans!

  4. lablogotana

    Hahaha, how can you find jeans to fit you in Bogotá Vicki? I had to resort to cleaning out Uniqlo when I went back to London – long AND stretchy (and therefore comfortable enough to party in… ok, I wouldn’t know about that, but they’re comfortable enough to get the bus in rush hour in, and that’s more important!).
    I disagree with your jeans allergy – you just need to find the right pair, but I second the comment above by alittlecameo. Shiny leggings are not part of a suit, and should not be worn to offices!

  5. Barbara

    Spot on, I have no idea why jeans are de rigueur even in the really hot parts of Colombia eg Villavicencio where i’ve just come back from a weekend break.

  6. Clare

    I stopped wearing jeans when I moved to Bogota when I saw how RIFE the wearing of them was. I wear only dresses/skirts and get constant weird looks and ‘why so elegant’…?!!

  7. cafealeman3690

    Thats pretty funny stuff. I mean sure i see jeans everywhere, usually black but I did not know it was that big of an obsession. Interesting. Then again I am wrong now that I think about it. I did call Bogota to friend of mine ” Land of tight pants”. I guess I did know, lol

  8. Natalia

    Hey Vicky, I understand your frustration. Im also really tall and skinny, its hard for me to find pants, the ones I buy always show some part of my ankle so I prefer to wear boots with them. And I love dresses (but the “why so elegant today?” is tiring). When I was in school there was one day in the month when everyone had to wear jeans. while my classmates loved to take a break from the uniform, I hated that day.. I even pretended to be sick so I didnt have to wear them.. (It was my monthly drama and not even my mother could understand) back then jeans were really rigid and uncomfortable. Fortunately they make them longer and in a more elastic fabric, so i wear them almost everyday. Why do we love them?: girls: they make our lifes easier and are sexy. Remember bogotanas have few chances to wear mini skirts and sometimes even cleavage is something exotic. Men: well, they just like to see your ass and long legs hehe

  9. Ceri

    Ha!! Oh my gosh, I love my jeans so much. Even in the most sweltering of heats, I’ll be wearing my skinnies all the time! But seriously, girl, get away from dudes who tell you what to wear.

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