I read an article the other day about the great pains jeans manufacturers go to these days to wear out your pair of jeans before you ever put them on. Yeah, and then charge an arm and a leg for a tattered piece of cloth. What ever happened to letting them wear out on the wearer, to fade with dignity after many wearings?  According to this article* jeans are “washed, sandblasted, baked and treated” to speed up the aging of the material, and in the process fading the color, creating premature holes, fraying the seams, and in general overdoing the normal wear and tear of the jeans. Of course, I don’t have to tell you this; it becomes obvious when you shop for jeans.

It used to be easy to buy jeans. I used to love walking into Blase’s Dry Goods store in downtown Rosenberg and the smell of fresh indigo dye would greet me, a wonderful, familiar smell. Jeans would be folded and stacked on very basic tables made of heavy-duty plywood with legs made of 4x4s. All the jeans were right there. Not separate stacks or departments separating men’s from women’s; no interminable styles and types, just Levi’s organized by waist and inseam length. Buy a pair an inch bigger in the waist and two inches longer in the inseam than you would actually need, take ’em home, wash in hot water, and bingo! They would shrink to fit just right. And they would be a lovely shade of dark blue. With none of that nasty spandex stuff in the fabric, either.

Between general wear and tear and riding the horse, my jeans faded gradually and naturally. After time, they also had some frayed hems, worn pocket seams, and the inseams finally wore threadbare from rubbing on the saddle, and they would turn a lovely paler blue. But no huge, obvious holes. Mother would grumble when I would beg her to overcast the inseams with a zigzag stitch so I could get one or two more wearings out of them. She would have rather bought another pair and started over; I would rather have my custom-distressed comfortable pair to wear again.

I hate jeans shopping now. They are all already faded, have zippers instead of metal buttons, are worn out in all the wrong places, and cost way too much. And now so many brands have that tacky spandex  that doesn’t give and allow the jeans to loosen up a bit and feel like they are yours. Then there are the endless style decisions: pre-shrunk, relaxed fit, original fit, boot fit, straight leg, flared leg, low waist, high waist, and I am sure other considerations I have forgotten about. The comic strip “Cathy” even made the same complaint in last week’s paper. Besides being artifically faded, they often look yellow besides. And none of them smell like new jeans.

I think it is the smell of fresh denim that I miss the most. And the dark blue color that fades on its own as I have the pleasure of wearing them out myself and having fun while doing it. Too bad today’s kids won’t get to have that experience.                   
*Magsaysay, Melissa. “Denim on denim catching on,” Clovis News Journal, August 28, 2010, page 8.