Yesterday, for the first time in probably a decade, I went out shopping for new jeans. All I can say is: times have changed.
Jeans are my pants of preference*. I say that even though in the last few years, and especially when I worked at the airport, my work has required me to wear somewhat dressier casual wear. But anytime I can, I switch into jeans or cargo pants. Comfort rules, right up there with practicality.
The problem is, living in the Netherlands and cycling all the time, my jeans tend to wear out in places they didn’t used to wear out. When I was a kid it was always the knees, or the bottom hem on the leg, that went first. This resulted in having a collection of jean cut-offs as well. But here in Holland it’s the inside of the upper leg that goes, just below the crotch, the consequence of sitting on a bicycle saddle and pumping one’s legs up and down, hour after hour, day after day.
The last time I needed new jeans, probably 5 years ago, I bought three pairs online from LL Bean. The dollar exchange rate was really good, and with the company’s 100% satisfaction guarantee, I had nothing to lose if I had to send the order back for a different size or style. In the end, with careful measurement, the first order was spot on, so no worries. Those jeans have served me well, but now two of them have definite holes just below the crotch, and the third pair is on the way.
The first time I can remember buying jeans was when I was 7 and living in the swamps in Florida, where my father temporarily worked for a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. The nearest town was Okeechobee, a cow town if ever there was one. (Rural Florida, away from the tourist attractions and retirement villages, is remarkably “country”.) I can remember going with my mother and brother, Paul, into a sleepy, musty clothing store, full of jeans and cowboy boots and shirts with fake mother-of-pearl snaps, and emerging with a pair of Wrangler jeans, the fabric so stiff and thick I could hardly put my legs through them. It took literally months of wear and washing for those jeans to become comfortable.
Well, I can tell you: jeans aren’t what they used to be. Yesterday I looked at literally hundreds of pairs of “jeans”, all the while my sense of despair and betrayal growing as I examined the flimsy fabric, the weird cuts, the ridiculous stylish accents. Whatever happened to a good ole pair of jeans? What was so wrong with real denim, deep pockets, and a proper waist? Most of what is on offer seems half worn even before it’s sold: faded, scratched, softened, bleached, and some even with holes burned into them (!) – que es el punto?
I had just about given up hope when, in the backest corner of a large department store, I stumbled upon a small collection of Lee jeans, from the USA. I’ve never bought Lee’s before, but slipping them on in the changing room after – I kid you not – at least 25 other brands, I was overcome with that authentic “I got my jeans on” feeling.
So today, I’m steppin’ out with my girl to the movies (“Precious“), and I’m gonna wear my new jeans.
* Brits: read “trousers”. I once caused a stir at the dinner table during summer school at my ordination training in England by expressing my hope that the hot August weather would remain so that we could all stay wearing shorts. The reason I cited: “I’ve only brought one pair of pants along”.