julie: on blue jeans

In preparation for this entry, I googled a couple of things, including “blue jeans and the destruction of civilization.”  I’ve read articles about how blue jeans have done everything from ending the Cold War to being a catalyst for “The Women’s Movement,” as well as contributing heavily to the rise of lawlessness all over the world.  There’s a lot of “evidence” that can be shaped to make blue jeans responsible for almost everything.  I actually got to thinking about that part of  the whole idea of blue jeans when I saw a picture of Mitt Romney in blue jeans.  I won’t comment on that much except to say that some things are just wrong.  And if you can make blue jeans look like a bad idea, well.

I was going to talk about some of that, the effect blue jeans have had on history, the ways  I saw some of that in my own little world.  But that thinking also brought up something I want to comment on more:  girls jeans.  I own a few pairs, and I like them alright, but they really aren’t actually blue jeans.  They are just what the signs on their racks say, “Girls Jeans,” or “Women’s Jeans.”   They are like “slacks” or “pants” that are made out of a denim-like material which is thinner and doesn’t fade as well and just are really not “blue jeans.”  And because they are thinner and not the right kind of denim, once they wear away at various places, it is really hard to patch them and so you end up having to just throw them out.

For the first half of my jean-buying life, I wore 28 or 29-31.  I like my jeans to sit right below the bottom of what I later in life discovered would be considered “the waist,” and right above what would be considered “the hips.”  And I like a cuff;  not huge, somewhere around an inch and a half, give or take.  And I am really partial to 501s.  For a long time, there were just 501s.  I remember when the firs “501 for Women” came out.  I bought one pair and that was it. 

I was partial to Levi’s, although there were two cuts of Lee’s that I liked pretty well.  I bought all my blue jeans at a place called Bailey’s and one day when they were out of the right size Levi’s I got the Lee’s and after that I had almost as many Lee’s as I did Levi’s.  Lee’s had a plain pocket with no stitching and it was just a little bigger that Levi’s.  It depended on my mood, sometimes one just felt better than the other.

Part of the reason I tried any of the “women’s jeans” was that Bailey’s closed and I had find somewhere else to buy blue jeans.   I tried a variety, Gloria Vanderbilt and Calvin Klein, that kind of thing.   I did have two pairs from the Gap that I loved, they were “baggies,” men’s, and they were perfect.  I see “baggies” advertised every now and then but it’s not what I am looking for.  I would wear “Women’s Jeans” all the time if they would make baggies, which actually fit how a whole bunch of women are really made.  I can’t explain it right,  but those jeans that come up to your belly button and are made out of some stretch material and then are wider at the hips, those are not baggies and they are ugly.

I was just amazed watching the price of blue jeans go up.  More and more money for things that were thinner and thinner and didn’t fit right.  The one exception I found was Girbaud and I only really knew about these because they got big around the time my son started being involved in picking his own clothes.  At first I was like, “Hell no, no way I am paying that much money for some damn blue jeans.”  But I went and looked and finally found a good sale and so we got a couple of pairs.  And I later got myself a couple pairs.   I still have them.  They have lasted all these years partly because they were really good quality and partly because I have only been able to fit into them about half the years I have owned them.

I think part of the reason I don’t like “Women”s Jeans” is that aside from the fact that you really don’t know what you are getting, you have to try them on.  I like to know not only that I am getting just what I want, just pick them up and go,  but what they will be like after many, many washings.  I like to know they aren’t going to shrink and that they will fade, not fray.  I found a cut of Lee’s Women’s Jeans that weren’t bad.  They were relatively inexpensive and the fit wasn’t annoying at all.  But then one day they were on sale and I bought a couple without trying them on and then they didn’t all fit the same and on some the material was a little thinner.   So that was the end of that.  Because blue jeans, for me at least, are like a second skin.  They have to be dependable.   They need to fit exactly right no matter what position I am in. They need come out of the wash the same size.  They need to not rip at every little nick.  And they need to age well. 

I just recently threw out a pair of jeans that I have had since I was 17.  I had patched and studded and stitched those jeans for so many years.   I couldn’t begin to list all the places they had been and all the secrets they could have told.  I hadn’t worn them for a long time and when I found them in a box I was really surprised; I thought I had thrown them out at some point.  I guess I just wasn’t ready until now to completely shed that particular layer of skin.

I still wear mostly Levi’s, and I am still partial to men’s 501s.  I have a newer pair that I just put a patch on.  I am up there enough in years that if these last as long as the ones I just threw out,  I might just end up dying with them on.   And that would be a really comfortable thing.  

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