By Mark E. Smith
If you haven’t heard, blue jeans are out of control. I was reading the fashion section of a men’s lifestyle magazine during a two-hour flight layover at an airport, intrigued by an article on high-end denim trends, where a pair of “in” jeans now range from $200 to $1,800 – and, according to the article, people are lining up to buy them.
Now, I haven’t been a jeans kind of guy in 20 years. Sure, in high school, all I wore were jeans; but, back then, I don’t recall any alternative. When I was in college, Levi’s began marketing Dockers – bringing back the khaki, chino type of pant – so I latched onto those as a bit more comfortable and upscale than jeans. And, once I entered the working world, I moved into dress slacks, sticking there ever since.
Nevertheless, on a whim, I bought my first pair of jeans in decades about a year ago at Wal-Mart for $14.99. I’ve worn them maybe 4 times, and they’ve seemed fine to me – jeans are just jeans, after all.
So, I was reading the magazine article in the airport terminal, thinking to myself, who in the hell would spend hundreds of dollars on a pair of jeans, when you can get them for $14.99 at Wal-Mart?
In fact, I was so intrigued by who would buy stratospherically-priced jeans, that I pulled up the web browser on my laptop, and punched in some of the jean designers mentioned in the article, looking at their web sites, seeing jeans after jeans that looked like… well… jeans. But, they were crazy-expensive. Out of curiosity, I clicked on the sale section of one designer’s web site, and browsed the so-called deals for the holidays: $798 jeans slashed to $449. However, as I scrolled past the still-crazy-priced sale jeans, I read what I thought was a typo: $345 jeans marked down to $29.95. Yes, $29.95 – with free shipping, no less!
And, as I read the product description, I couldn’t find any catch. Supposedly, these were the company’s signature jeans, made entirely in the U.S., from denim woven on an antique loom, hand dyed 56 times, and sewn by an individual who signed his or her name inside the pocket. Oh, and they were supposed to make my butt look fantastic. All for $29.95, with free shipping.
Of course, I couldn’t resist ordering a pair – the sole shock value alone of telling my friends at holiday parties that I was wearing $300 jeans would be worth the $29.95. So, I ordered them right there from my laptop in the airport, selecting the dark “1-year worn” denim color, instead of the 3- or 5-year light-colored options, because I also read in the magazine article that darker-colored jeans are a more upscale look. And, if I was paying a whopping $29.95 instead of Wal-Mart’s $14.99 – that’s double the price I would normally pay! – I expect to appear upscale.
A few days later, I fetched the package off of my porch after work, eager to see what $345 – or, $29.95 – jeans look like? Inside the cardboard box was a hinged wooden box. As I cautiously opened the wooden box, there were the jeans, wrapped in tissue paper, pressed, immaculately folded, with an embossed, leather pamphlet tied to the belt loop with a ribbon of raw denim, telling the story of their handcrafted origin. No, this wasn’t like coming home from Wal-Mart with a plastic grocery bag, and a pair of wrinkled jeans to throw in the washer before daring to wear them.
As I looked over the jeans, what struck me next was the “1-year-worn” appearance. The jeans looked exquisite, but with subtle color and crease lines where one moves most, including the fly area, which is a by-hand process that the pamphlet called “whiskering.” Beyond the extravagant packaging, I suppose that a good portion of the jeans’ manufacturing cost goes toward the dedicated garment worker who spends his or her days carefully sculpting weathered-looking crotches.
Lucky for me, I had a party to attend that night, so I slipped right into my new jewels of jeans. I must admit, they fit like a million bucks – or 345 bucks, or at least $29.95, with free shipping.
I also read in the men’s magazine that the way to rock jeans is to pair them with a button-up oxford shirt, sweater vest, and a weathered blazer, so I pulled those out of my closet, shaved, and hit my party.
After an hour or so at the party, I received my first comment on my jeans. “I’ve never seen you in jeans,” my friend, Jen, said, patting my knee. “They look good.
“They cost $300,” I said.
“No way?” she replied, looking at them closer, rubbing the fabric on my leg carefully with the tips of her nails, a freshly-lit cigarette between her fingers.
“Totally.” I said. “They’re from a boutique designer in Manhattan. I saw them in a magazine, and had to have them. They’re hot.”
“You’re insane,” she replied, laughing, then sipping her drink.
“Check this out,” I said, spinning my wheelchair around. “How do they make my butt look? Is my ass hot in them or what?”
“I don’t know – you’re sitting down,” she said, taking a drag off of her cigarette, blowing smoke upwards, then giggling.