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What I didn’t know before is that Russian men prefer the skinny jeans

By Michael Oliver-Semenov
28 April 2013

They think wearing their jeans so tight that it pushes their manbits up into the stomachs looks cool, hard and/or fashionable.

'What they don’t know, and what I have only just realised, is that this preference for skinny jeans is probably a major contributing factor to Russia’s falling birth rate, which as some of you may know, has been a hot topic in the Kremlin these past two years'. Picture: Michael Oliver-Semenov

A long time before I even thought of moving to Russia I met someone from the British Royal Navy who told me of his one and only experience with Russian people. He was on a destroyer in some remote part of the world when he and his crew came upon a Russian battle ship. 

As the USSR had only recently collapsed, leaving Russia’s economy was in free fall, when the two ships came alongside each other the Russian sailors called out to beg some western products, mostly Levi jeans. The sailor I met told me he traded every pair he had in return for wads of American dollars; he did so well in fact that he even considered trading the pair covering his own arse. 

I recalled this particularly amusing and rather ironic anecdote this week when I found myself in a similar position to those Russian sailors.

The problem was that I only brought 2 pairs of jeans from the UK and only recently discovered that they both had a small hole in the crotch; not a huge problem, the holes are barely noticeable, but still, I thought it better to replace them sooner rather than later, seeing as 99% of my students are of the young female variety and I don’t want to be sacked for gross misconduct on account of my jeans betraying my dignity. 

So I needed jeans. Just 2 pairs of denim trousers. It sounds simple doesn’t it?

The thing is that I like to wear flared or boot cut jeans. Not only do they give me the false impression that I am 1% John Travolta but they also allow my crown jewels a little more room to breathe. 

What I didn’t know before (seeing as I don’t spend my time looking at men’s arses) and what I know now, is that Russian men prefer the skinny jeans. 

They think wearing their jeans so tight that it pushes their manbits up into the stomachs looks cool, hard and/or fashionable. 

Michael Oliver-Semenov

'So I needed jeans. Just 2 pairs of denim trousers. It sounds simple doesn’t it?'. Picture: Michael Oliver-Semenov

What they don’t know, and what I have only just realised, is that this preference for skinny jeans is probably a major contributing factor to Russia’s falling birth rate, which as some of you may know, has been a hot topic in the Kremlin these past two years. 

My quest for boot cut jeans led me through a maze of independent shops and high street stores, sadly to no avail. I searched the internet; I quizzed my students; I looked high and low, under every rock and stone. I became so desperate that I even considered sending some money to my sister in Wales so she could send me a few pairs, but hesitated as it would cost a small fortune. 

I lost all hope, and was this very morning at the point of capitulation when I discovered a branch of Marks & Spencer had been built right here in the centre of Siberia. 

Thank the lord for M&S. Both logic and instinct told me that they would likely have a few pairs of the magic roomy jeans; M&S is after all a major British multinational retailer and they have a reputation for selling garments ‘what preserve a person’s dignity while being a bit classy’.  

Fresh faced and full of beans, my wife and I left out apartment at 1pm sharp and made our way across the city to a place called Planet, a small Siberian shopping centre the size of Jupiter. When we got there we were both ravenous.

Thankfully, like all major shopping centre places, Planet has a huge section devoted to filling people’s tummies. There were several outlets, each one serving a variety if salads, meat products etc. There was even a KFC but it had a queue ten people long so we gave it a miss. 

After looking at menus and whatnot my wife decided on a contemporary Russian outlet that sold meat-type products on sticks, salads and mashed potato. 

Michael Oliver-Semenov

'For some reason most food outlets in Russia sell food that is either lukewarm or stone cold. They haven’t quite got the knack of marketable hospitality, which is ironic, because if you visit a native Siberian at home their hospitality is usually second to none'.  Picture: Michael Oliver-Semenov

Mashed potato in Russia is known mainly as puree. I have my doubts actually whether there is any potato in it; sometimes it sits behind the counter in a big mess tin, but more often than not is it comes from a dispenser, not unlike a milkshake machine.

We ordered 4 plates of various stuff, including puree and meat-type product on sticks. My wife almost cried when the cashier told us the bill was 700 roubles (£14). 

You see, in a lot of cafés and contemporary food outlets in Russia they sell food on little transparent plastic plates, where each serving is measured in grams.

100 grams of today’s gloop was valued at 84 roubles (£1.68); if you ask for 100 grams it usually looks like, well, nothing, so we asked them to pour us what we considered to be decent portions of various gloops. Consequently the bill was ridiculously high. 

We found a place to sit and sucked up our meal through straws. It was tasteless and cold. As I swallowed each mouthful I couldn’t help but think of the great British cafes I have known, where you can slap a fiver (250 roubles) on the counter in return for a plate full of yummies which are both hot and satisfying.  

For some reason most food outlets in Russia sell food that is either lukewarm or stone cold. They haven’t quite got the knack of marketable hospitality, which is ironic, because if you visit a native Siberian at home their hospitality is usually second to none. 

I can’t help but feel that these contemporary foot outlets are just taking the mickey. Anyway, to cut a short story long, we located the branch of M&S where they did indeed have the magic roomy jeans and I spent an hour trying on different pairs. The changing rooms were exactly the same as the ones in Britain and the service was similarly flawless. 

All in all, not a bad day. If I had to sum it up I would say this: while you may be surprised by how many western products are available in Siberia, when you go shopping you should always take a packed lunch with you or make an effort to leave the planet sized shopping centre to visit one of the older Soviet cafes where babushkas serve hot potato pie at realistic prices.

Michael Oliver-Semenov is a professional poet and writer from Wales, the small but stoic country parked next to England.

After serving as the first poet in residence for Blown, the British magazine for cultural intelligence, Michael emigrated to Krasnoyarsk, Siberia to live with his wife and translator Anastasia Semenova.

When he is not growing vegetables at their family dacha in summer, or avoiding the wild Siberian hounds of winter, Michael is a freelance English teacher, editor and contributor to The Siberian Times.

His forthcoming expose on Siberian life ‘Sunbathing in Siberia:'A marriage of east and west in Post-Soviet Russia’ is due for release in spring 2014 and will be available online and in all book stores worth anything.

Comments (9)

You tell a good story I was waiting for a photograph of said Russians in these super tight jeans good article though fashion trends come and go
Alan, Wakefield uk
15/11/2014 04:10
1
0
Haha clever reply, Mao! Waiting for your very careful blog entry on Siberian woman!
Kate, Russia
01/05/2013 20:22
3
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Hi D from all around the world. I would need to answer that question VERY carefully, so I'm going to write a whole blog entry about it which should go live in the next 2 weeks.... so watch this space.
Mao Oliver-Semenov, Krasnoyarsk
30/04/2013 20:38
4
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What is it like being married to a Siberian woman? Lots of cultural differences? Tough character?
D, all around the world
29/04/2013 21:22
3
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Max - that's quite funny and I hadn't noticed it before !! thanks, you cheered me up.
Mao Oliver-Semenov, Krasnoyarsk
29/04/2013 19:38
3
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No he doesn't look like Lenin AT ALL!!! Michael is cute and has gorgeous hair and handsome face! x
Anna, Moscow
29/04/2013 15:47
5
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haha Michael actually does look quite like Lenin, look at their eyebrows!
Max, Moscow
29/04/2013 14:09
3
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well men in Novosibirsk are certainly more fond of boot but rather than skinnies! And yes I DO spend some minutes of my life looking at men's bums))))
Tanya, Novosibirsk
28/04/2013 17:46
5
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another enjoyable read and insight into life in Siberia , I can not say i fancy the food outlets especially being a vegetarian , sounds like i would only have the choice of Gloop mmmm ( not) Tight jeans good on a very fit nice backside ,otherwise oww, yuc, really not a nice sight .
Enjoying reading Mao's Blogs :)
Amanda Davies, Neath , South WALES
28/04/2013 14:46
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