Dungarees, jeans, denims, a rose by any other name ………… you get the idea; they’re blue and faded and everyone, everyone has them, wants them, covets them. I was reading an article in today’s L.A. Times about recession-proof jeans and realized that jeans, no matter what you call them, are the great leveler. Plumbers, students, grandparents, toddlers, executives, prisoners, we all wear denim. Now, it’s true that some jeans cost more than others. For example, a pair of jeans by Citizens of Humanity will cost $150+ at Bloomingdale’s, while a pair at Old Navy may only run about $19. Are they different; do they wear differently; or is it the people who wear them who make the brand what they are?
I remember working as a student teacher in a very affluent neighborhood of Westchester County. My fifth-graders, easily, were wearing jeans which I could not afford on at least a month’s salary but they all looked up to me because I was their teacher. Now, when a pipe bursts and we have a flood in the kitchen at midnight, if my plumber shows up in his jeans, I think he’s a god. Then there is always the group of model prisoners whom the corrections department will allow out of jail for the day to do yard work along area highways. They’re wearing jeans but we all wonder what they’ve done to get them where they are.
Denim is truly the fabric of society, from the moment it was first cut by Levi Strauss in 1853 and made its way to the factory workers of America. It has surfed the waves of recession time and time again and nothing has taken the wind out if its sails. In fact, the L.A. Times reports the denim industry held its own, even increasing slightly over last year’s sales. Denim is the comfort food for our soul as much as mac and cheese and meatloaf.
Funny, though, it is only the executives of those so-called premium brands who believe that you can tell the difference in a pair of jeans if you see them walking down the street. I can’t. In fact, as a successful lawyer, I have yet to waste my money on jeans costing $150 and more. Give me a pair of Lees and I’m a happy camper. Try to steal or buy my used and frayed pair from high school and I’ll chase you down the street with a stick.
My favorite pair of jeans has been around the world with me: from the Berlin Wall to the Blarney Stone; from seeing Bon Jovi to AC/DC and Maroon5; from covering breaking news in NYC to writing a column in my living room. Maybe it’s the name “Lee” on the label which makes me partial to them but it’s a name that’s meant to last….since 1889. I’m just guessing, Citizens of Humanity and 7 for all Mankind won’t likely be around by the year 2115. Their names just don’t roll of the tongue and their jeans just don’t fit the hips like good old Lee and Levi. Hang tough, America, your jeans do.