EVO­LU­TION OF THE UBIQ­UI­TOUS JEANS UNI­FORM

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life - JEN­NIFER ALLFORD

The scrunchie is back. I re­al­ize the 1980s-era, cloth-cov­ered hair elas­tic never ac­tu­ally left plenty of pony­tails but “it’s back” in the sense that hip young women and men are wear­ing them and Lu­l­ule­mon is sell­ing them for $16 a pop.

Rommy Rev­son must be thrilled. She pa­tented the scrunchie way back in 1987 af­ter notic­ing the fab­ric-cov­ered elas­tic in her pa­jama pants. It was a new chap­ter for the for­mer singer whose prior claim to fame was open­ing for Si­na­tra, once. Rev­son ini­tially called her in­ven­tion Schunchie af­ter her dog.

It’s fine for some­one to dis­cover the scrunchie now, but I can’t go back there. The older you get, the more that car­di­nal “been up and down the cat walk a few times” fash­ion rule ap­plies: If you wore it the first time around, leave it be this time. So for me that means no shoul­der pads, Bana­narama baggy over­alls or sleek stir­rup pants (if you were tall they al­ways bagged in the crotch any­way).

The ex­cep­tion to this rule is jeans. They have been part of ev­ery­one’s uni­form for decades. From bad boys to mom jeans to rock ’n’ roll icons (or all three in the case of Chrissie Hynde), jeans are ubiq­ui­tous. In fact, it’s been es­ti­mated that on any given day of the week, the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple on the planet are wear­ing jeans.

The Global Denim Project (a group of Bri­tish an­thro­pol­o­gists who en­cour­age other aca­demics to study jeans) sug­gest that glob­ally, peo­ple wear jeans three and a half days a week. In Ger­many, they wear them 5.2 days of the week (am guess­ing the .2 is a week­day, maybe a Tues­day af­ter­noon?). More than 70 per cent of Brazil­ians say they love wear­ing jeans but only 27 per cent of peo­ple in In­dia dig wear­ing the denim.

The world­wide love af­fair with jeans be­gan around 1873 when Levi Strauss pa­tented his Dou­ble X denim trousers. The rugged pants were re­in­forced with lit­tle cop­per riv­ets here and there to make them ex­tra sturdy to wear while toil­ing in the mines, build­ing a rail­way or plow­ing the fields. To drive the point home, Strauss ad­ver­tised his new pants with images of two horses hooked up to a pair of jeans try­ing to rip them apart.

“That sort of tells you what the gist was of these ads,” says Emma McClen­don, a cu­ra­tor at Fash­ion In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy’s Mu­seum and au­thor of Denim:

Fash­ion’s Fron­tier. “It’s all about how durable they are. How good they are as tough work wear.” That im­age with the two horses is still around. Just look at that leather patch on the back of your 501s. But you can’t al­ways count on the dura­bil­ity any­more.

I won­der what Strauss would think if he walked into a Levi’s store to­day and saw shelf af­ter shelf of $120 distressed and art­fully ripped up jeans.

We used to earn our faded blue and torn knees fair and square. But things move faster now. “It’s not that sur­pris­ing that com­pa­nies rec­og­nized the av­er­age con­sumer is not pa­tient enough to wear out their jeans nat­u­rally,” McClen­don told CBC. “So what we’re see­ing is that the ag­ing process has been ar­ti­fi­cially ac­cel­er­ated and in­dus­tri­al­ized.”

Not only is it a lit­tle like cheat­ing, sand­ing and/or re­peat­edly wash­ing jeans in chem­i­cals (and loads of wa­ter) is hell on the fac­tory work­ers, not to men­tion the en­vi­ron­ment (and if you’re tall, the ripped knee is al­ways in the wrong place any­way).

The Global Denim Project reports the av­er­age Amer­i­can owns seven pairs of jeans, the av­er­age Brazil­ian owns six, Euro­peans own five and Ja­panese own three.

This av­er­age Cana­dian owns at least a dozen pairs, but in my de­fence they’re all dif­fer­ent. You got your boot cut, your flares and your skinny jeans. There’s a few low rise, a cou­ple of high­rise and a whole bunch some­where in be­tween. And, yes, I have a few pre-ripped ones.

I will soon have one fewer pair of jeans though; they’re headed to the con­sign­ment store. They were an im­pulse buy (half price!). I let the stylish young clerk con­vince me that I looked the height of fash­ion in the high-waisted, flared, an­kle­length jeans. Ex­cept ev­ery time I put them on I feel like I’m back in Grade 7 af­ter a growth spurt and my flares are sud­denly too short and all the kids are point­ing at my flood pants. Like I said, you can’t go back to looks you rocked be­fore. But maybe we could try to go back to the days when we wear our jeans long enough to blow out the knee and fade out the butt all by our­selves.

Denim fash­ion has changed over the years, from work­man­like to bell-bot­toms, stovepipe, high-waisted and now pre-ripped. It’s a change from when we used to earn our faded blue and torn knees, writes Jen­nifer Allford.

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