Monday, March 8, 2010

Pre-ripped Jeans

Recently, Random Mother was at Target (Have you noticed their new in-house label that is trying to help prop up the economy?) and she accidently witnessed a fashion monstrosity, which was a highly organized version of the pre-wrinkled, pre-washed lite-jean. A whole whole lot of very planned wrinkles, highlighting the knee to be. This sighting coincided with the US Olympic team’s fake-faded jeanesque snowboard pant. On top of that was Sunday's full page Ralph Lauren ad featuring a woman in not only pre-faded, but yes (I mean no) pre-soiled jeans!
This series of unfortunate events prompts Art Ranger to pull from her archives, an essay from (2005ish):

I’ll tell you a tale ladies and gentlemen, of shopping in today’s marketplace for an honest pair of jeans.
This mother of boys needs a pair of jeans cuz you might have to slide on some rocks or help put a worm on a fishhook. You gotta wipe marshmellow on em. You gotta sip coffee on a crisp mountain morning.
So I start out at the mall where I might even remember where I parked my car. And I start out at the age appropriate middle age section of the mid-to-high end department store with the perfumey air entrance.
I start spinning through the rack of jeans as my search begins and it makes the hangers squeak on the big round ring like some kinda impatient irate shopper. Too blue, too teal, wrong pockets, hoidytodylabel, too long, fake fringe, sequins? And then come the nauseating flashbacks of adolescence in the seventies not fitting into any department store department. Fruitless treks through cold linoleum and worn grey rugs and the build-up of Monsanto scotchguard smelling, non-fitting clothes; Juniors, Girls, Boys. At least the ice cream cone and a walk past the indoor plastic fakewater fountain by the bronze bears, or maybe a tropical fish to take home in a baggy.

People I’m talking about looking for an honest pair of jeans.

So next I try going to the boutique shop at the mall, you know the long narrow boxes with the jaunty themes and the sock sets and seasonal underwear. And so I get to the rack that swoops down to my size like a rollercoaster ride and I stop at each jean for inspection – over here you got these already worn-in thighs all white and soft – now what life experience is this exactly supposed to replicate or reduce? And then the green tinged jeans and the last straw is the fake one-blown-out-knee jean. Look people – I came from a family that wouldn’t be caught dead walking their bicycle up a hill. The idea of breaking in your jeans was, you know kinda like breaking in a horse. You had to earn it in snags on the barbed wire and stories to go with um. You got to have the glue scabs and scars of art works and camping trips and getting lost and getting found again. Those little rivets on the corners of the pocket meant something to us.

And then there’s my aunt Jane who is 89 and still does Royal Air Force drills every morning like she learned during World War II. She still has the same pair of jeans purchased before a picnic in the 1950s that would look swell with gingham. Where at the mall is a set of sturdy jeans like that my friends? I just wasn’t meeting any jeans that I could really get along with and sit by the fire at night and tell stories wearing. Jeans used to be able to weather years of your life with you!

Don’t these people from the boutique set, with the jagged hairstyles and free miles of exposed tatooed bellyline, don’t they feel robbed of some seminal coming-of-age-experiences that could be happening in their jeans? Cool stuff to be absorbed into their journey and kept a certain record of in the jeans. The 3-legged dog saloon and the rattlesnake by the yucca plant and the flat tire by the orange rooster where you had an incredible lunch. I mean come on – you with the pre-stressed hole in the hip and the leaky seams made by powersanders!

Ok - the other last last straw is the pre-dragged blownout-back-hem jeans. It comes with many virtual mud puddles you never stepped in, city streets you never explored. And maybe the jeans also now have to hold more and more flesh because of the less and less physical experiences that could lead to the breaking in of jeans. Evidently ours is a “service economy” now. Does that mean we stand around? Or sit around?

Maybe that is really what I long for in an honest pair of jeans - something made in our country by people who know how to do things.

How have we slipped into this culture of pre-stressed, pre-ripped and now pre-wrinkled jeans? (add pre-soiled) Am I entirely warped by the middle-aged mindset here? Am I so unhip to the gyp? – why do pre-ripped jeans really get under my skin? Is it a false over-generosity like an easy car given to you by your creditcardparents with a thin frosting crust of dinkietwinkie expectations? Or are these pre-stressed garments all part of our media induced coma? More slight variations in a sequence of corporate-controlled moments, feelings and nutritional inputs. Jeans now reflect our privileging of the replica over the really-lived-through. Our celebrity-worshipped, digi-pixelated, reality tv infested, nonfat venti latte mindscape. Perhaps growing up with experiential inputs arrived at through media’s vicarious character projections, rather than actual character-forming ordeals make pre-stressed jeans an ideal fashion. Whereas in a physical world, jeans can serve as buffer, a clothing layer that earns its familiar comfort shape. Now, by sitting in chairs in front of screens touching springy buttons, many are satisfied with their participation on earth and rather have tons of dioxins, pumice washers and sanding discs to manufacture “lived-in” wisdom for their jeans.

Or, have the very fibers of our nervous systems, attention spans, short-term memory cords, and thereby the fibers of our clothing been shortened and/or shredded? We just can’t live through, or upload our lives quick enough for those jeans to ever get worn in.

Meanwhile, I’m getting sick-n-tired at the mall by now and in need of an overpriced coffee beverage with my name on it. After the fourth store, which was now a more middlebracket of the department store department, we tried on the other gender and age areas for fit (pretending to shop for my sons). We got da baggybaggy jeans with the backpockets the size of phonebooks, and why do they even bother with the belt? A new kind of excess flowing under and around shoes, dragging in slowshuffling groups achieving street-sweeper-like swaths of prewashed pre-stressed, perhaps purple-tinted, never slid into home-base jeans.

How do you feel about jumping into jeans styled with a pre-lived manufactured non-experience? Thank heaven for Goodwill, where you can at least re-inhabit someone elses random soft knee-threads and spin a fiction about their lives.

Upon arriving home empty-handed, I go to work on my computer noticing how I really don’t need jeans to sit in front of my computer to write a diatribe about pre-ripped jeans anyway.

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