I swear that ninety percent of the young people I see are wearing torn, ripped and distressed jeans. Some ripped jeans look as if they’d lost an argument with a giant cheese grater. Others look like the wearer was going to turn their jeans into shorts and got bored with the project. There are the people who look like they had been dressed by Edward Scissorhands and some of them have what looks like mud painted on the jeans.
Levi Strauss is founder of the first factory in the United States for the manufacture of blue jeans in the 1880s. They were called “waist overalls” back then. He died on September 26, 1902 in San Francisco at the age of 73. He is probably rolling over in his grave.
Jeans are made of a tough fabric and it takes a lot to wear them out. This is why they have always been working apparel favored by manual laborers, farmers, and factory workers. They got worn, torn and beat up through overuse and were often associated with blue collar employees. I used to wear jeans at work and every pair was riddled full of holes from welding and being splashed with caustic soda. When I was attending welding school, my worn, frayed jeans actually started on fire.
Then in the mid-1970s, the Ramones burst on the scene wearing torn jeans. We just thought they were broke and couldn’t afford new jeans. But it turned out it was the uniform of the punk movement and later, grunge. A defiant, anti-establishment statement, torn jeans were seen as a sign of rebellion, but today, when everyone and his grandad are wearing them, it’s more a sign of sheep-like conformity.
“He’s really ripped,” used to be a compliment when applied to a taut six-pack upper body. Now, it just means he’s wearing damaged trousers. I’ve been living in jeans since the 1960s when we used to call then dungarees so I suppose it’s not unexpected that we looked for new ways to wear them. And it’s not often you see 1960s bell bottoms any more, unless you are a deadhead. Sensible folk would say, OK, if you want ripped jeans, why not buy an ordinary pair of jeans and cut them up? At least that’s creative.
GQ, the men’s magazine, published a satirical guide on how to rip your jeans yourself. It described three “effects”. Holes, which should not be more than an inch wide. Shreds, where the fabric is torn but threads remain and finally, scrapes, fabric that is lightly grazed like you hit it with sandpaper. But all that is done for you now for a price. You can now buy shredded jeans but twenty percent of them are air.
The designer labels love boldly shredded legs. Balmain has a pair for $1144.59, Dolce & Gabbana’s are a steal at $555.85 and Gucci, instead of confessing it has battered them to oblivion, calls them “pre-loved, with a vintage feel”, all for a paltry $1124.75. (Prices from express.co.uk).
However, unless you’re an anorexic, celery-eating carb-phobic, bits of flesh will bulge through the gaps and some of it should not be seen in public. Often you can see a person’s underwear or worse through the holes. It’s not very flattering. (I apologize if you’re eating.)
Unless you’re in a hip-hop band from Detroit, you have probably progressed from the low-slung jeans that revealed your Calvin Klein boxers to jeans missing some of their fabric. At least we aren’t seeing someone’s butt. If you can afford Calvin Klein boxers maybe you could afford pants that fit or at least a belt. This is another fad I don’t understand. I suppose that this distressed jean fad is just a tad better than that.
I think the clothing fads in my day were much better, like tie dye, miniskirts, bikinis, and girls without bras. God I miss girls without bras. I used to tie dye everything, in fact when I was discharged from the Navy, I tie dyed my dress white uniforms. Another fad of my day was bell bottoms. The Navy also provided me a good supply of bell bottom jeans.
Ripped jeans are popular with both men and women today and it is leaving its mark on wardrobes around the country. Those comfortable shorts and jeans that I own that need a “haircut” every time I wear them are now fashionable to my wife’s chagrin. Fashion is always changing and improving. Just because something wasn’t popular in the past, does not make it trashy in the present.
Granted, there is a time and a place for all fashion trends. Knowing this, it would be not wise to wear ripped jeans to a job interview. Although you may believe that ripped jeans make you look hip and stylish, your prospective employer may have another point of view.
In the name of all that’s holey, (pun intended) haven’t we had enough of this trend? I think the time that we dress like we are wearing worn out or oversized clothes has passed.
Norb is a writer from Lockport and has worn his share of used clothing. You can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.