In the fickle world of fashion, in which last year's Uggs are this year's bargain-bin special, the perfect pair of jeans can get you through every season.

Boot-cut styles have reigned for the past couple of years, and they're flattering on a variety of body shapes. You don't have to jettison your favorite pair of flares, but this fall there is a definite trend toward the straight and narrow.

“It's a clean, straight-leg look,” says Amy Jasmer, head of product publicity at the San Francisco headquarters of Levi Strauss and Co. “What we're talking about is the area between the knee and the ankle.”

For men, you'll probably see more straight than skinny looks, paired with a simple shoe.

“It looks good with a Converse Chuck Taylor, a traditional clean or white sneaker,” Jasmer says. Or wear the jeans extra long and scrunch them at the ankle over a pair of boots.

Women's styles range from straight to an ultra-lean skinny – not a comforting thought for those who shy away from form-fitting fashions.

“Skinny is about a look, not about a waistline,” Jasmer reassures. “It's about a modern way of wearing your jeans.

“If you're a little bit fuller, you can balance it with the fall's big chunky cable sweaters,” she says. “It gives you some nice balance. Or a terrific long tunic with a cropped pair.”

Still not sold? Then try a straight pair of jeans for a fresh look.

Patches and bold decorative stitching are replacing rips and tears, says Logan Shepherd, merchandise and visual director at Dillard's in Lexington, Ky., where a whole section is devoted to skinny jeans.

He describes the look for men – skinny pants and shirts with rolled up sleeves or a graphic tee – as “rock star twisted with preppy.”

For women, whether the new jeans are cropped or long, slim or straight, they can be worn with flats as well as heels.

Helen VanMeter at Worlds Apart in Lexington owns a pair of the store's long-and-lean Lofli jeans, and she has worn them with some flip-flops. “I think they look best with flats,” she says. “And pumps, you can wear pumps with anything.”

“If it was spring, I would wear some with flats,” says Keri Depp, manager at General Eccentric in Lexington. “In the winter, tuck them into boots.”

Depp thinks these new looks have a chance to catch on. Customers already have asked for skinny jeans at her store.

“If almost all the female celebrities are wearing them,” she says, “when school starts, you'll be seeing the women wearing them.”

© 2006, Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.).

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.