By Icy Frantz
For those of you who subscribe to the belief that less is more, you will probably think the following sounds a little crazy:
I have an entire drawer dedicated to blue jeans.
To be clear, they weren’t all purchased in the last year; in fact, many of them are old, and have been in my possession long enough to come in and out of fashion – and then in again.
And although the word hoarder might come to mind, I look at this investment of space as a good one – sentimental, economical, and practical.
For example, pants like my baggy 501s with the torn leather Levi patch stitched into the area beneath the belt loops that I coveted in college in the 1980’s are now gracing the pages of the 2022 fashion magazines.
Consequently, that pair has traded places with my skinny jeans, which I am told are now out – and have therefore moved to the back of the drawer.
And while I purchased mine for a small price, a pair of very old Levi 501s went for a whopping $60,000 to an anonymous bidder on eBay in 2005.
Most of the denim in my collection are not as valuable, and some have even had a very short shelf life.
Just yesterday my son asked, “What are you wearing?” “Jeans,” I answered, a little offended by the tone of his question. “My mom jeans!” I explained. (and since I am a mom, I thought they were a good fit).
Evidently, they were not, and they have been laid to rest in the great jean wasteland in the sky, alongside my acid washed jeans and my (very) low rises that should have never been a thing. Really.
And while some of my jeans died a slow death over the years, others were repurposed into cutoff jeans and blue jean skirts and even a patchwork denim purse once when I was feeling particularly crafty.
And even though the blue jean industry has made some missteps in my opinion, it has created a product that is made to last, and one that has impacted our culture in considerable ways.
Originally designed in the 1870’s for miners, farmers, and workers, modern jeans were popularized as casual and undeniably cool wear by Marlon Brando and James Dean in their respective films, The Wild Ones and Rebel without a Cause, in the 1950’s. Elvis wore them all the time, and Marilyn Monroe wearing them in The Misfits made them acceptable and popular for women (thank you, Marilyn).
And who could ever forget 15-year-old Brooke Shields letting us know that nothing comes between her and her Calvins?
Brooke Shields did not have an immediate impact on my taste in blue jeans; in fact, designer jeans did not find their way into my drawer until I had the money in my budget for such an expense. But eventually I caved and strayed from the Levi brand to include Versace and Moschino in the 90’s, and Mother, Frame, and Citizens of Humanity in more recent years. I have never been tempted by the Dolce & Gabbana rhinestone studded jeans that sell for $10,000; they are not in my budget, among other things (no judgment, though).
The wonderful thing about jeans is that they can make a statement (Dolce & Gabbana), or they can pass quietly unnoticed in the background.
Like the white jean, which in our community – and many like it – literally screams summer.
How many times have I bought a cute top because-wouldn’t it go perfectly with my white jeans?
I even attended a summer event where every woman – but one – was dressed in white jeans. I guess she didn’t get the memo.
White jeans are the quintessential warm weather staple. And maybe, just maybe, I have a drawer for my white jeans, too. (I don’t.)
Which brings me to the unwritten rules around jeans – to which some I adhere, some I do not. Like no white jeans before Memorial Day or after Labor Day – who made that decision? Obviously, a rule just asking to be broken.
And how about the numerous dress codes at schools and fancy establishments that vehemently spell out no jeans or no ripped jeans or no cutoff jeans – anything but jeans – oh, and no cropped tops. (which makes perfect sense).
And speaking of ripped jeans – it still baffles me that some of the most expensive jeans on the market today come pre-ripped, and yet – I have to admit – I own a few pairs.
“You paid real money for those?” has asked every parent at least once.
COVID impacted our community in many negative ways, and likewise the jean industry took a hit.
Comfortable jeans were replaced by yoga pants and sweatpants – and in my case, pajama bottoms, which went from the bed to my desk and then back to bed. (Did I really just admit that?)
So, along with the excitement around “coming out” and seeing people unmasked and in large groups, jeans are making a comeback too.
And that makes me very happy.
Because not only do I enjoy being reacquainted with so many people, I am also rediscovering all of my old friends in my jean drawer.
Yup, they are all there – bootcut, bell-bottoms, cropped, baggy, ripped, distressed, straight leg, wide leg, faded, dark wash, and obviously…white
Andy Warhol once said, “I want to die with my blue jeans on,” and I get that. Of course, it might be a challenge to figure out which pair, but hopefully I won’t need to decide that for a very long time.