I went to put on a pair of my favorite jeans the other day, and as I pulled them up, one of my fingers slipped through a hole by the back pocket. What the heck? This was one of my newer pair, probably only 10 years old or so! My old pairs, 20 or more years old, I keep for painting and yard work. I was stunned. And bummed, only 10 years old, and headed for recycling. I guess they don’t make them like they used to.
And then I had to laugh to myself, thinking about how most of the jeans sold today look like they’ve been through a paper shredder. Curmudgeon alert! I had always thought that jeans were supposed to cover you up and keep you warm in the winter, but not so much anymore.
We didn’t have much money growing up. I was the oldest of five siblings; one of our grandpas took a liking to me (there’s actually a lot more to that story, maybe some day …) and each year right before school started, a large box would come in the mail for me. There would be new underwear, sock, shirts – and new jeans! How I’d love to get them, and see the blue denim, unbleached by sun and wash; feel the almost uncomfortable stiffness of the unworn fabric.
And then, of course, I’d ruin them. I don’t know exactly how as I look back, but I was an active kid. “Playing cars” on my knees, inside with my friends when it was raining, outside on the sidewalk when it was sunny. Hiding in neighbors bushes in the dark playing Kick the Can. Building extremely rustic versions of the beautiful Soap Box Derby cars whose races I got to see once or twice. The “ brakes” even worked occasionally. Climbing small trees. Working with my buddies to build an underground clubhouse in one of their back yards. I don’t know how deep we got, but when we stood up in the hole, I remember the top being over our heads, maybe. Once we got that deep, we started tunneling sideways until we could excavate a room big enough to hold 4-6 of us. And then my friends neighbor, who also happened to be their insurance agent, discovered our secret, and we had to fill in the hole.
I remember getting dressed for church, and grabbing my skateboard, my mom warning me … but I went out to my neighbors steepish driveway, skated down, hit a rock and launched, landing on my hands and … knees. I will admit I was always distraught when I got a hole – okay, holes, in the knees of my blue jeans. While I may not have been weeping, I’m pretty sure I was wailing to my mom that I couldn’t possibly wear those old jeans to school. Like I said, we didn’t have much money, and with five kids, new blue jeans weren’t in the budget. Plus my younger brother could wear out a pair of shoes in weeks, and replacing those seemed to be a higher priority.
Back in the day, some evil genius came up with the idea to extend the life of jeans with holes by using an iron-on patch. Even worse, the patches were the same color as NEW blue jeans, not the worn and faded ones that developed holes, so the patch stood out like a sore thumb. So obvious, and so tacky, so gauche. I hated them with every ounce of my skinny little body.
Fifty years later (okay, maybe more like 60 or so), I’ll bet they don’t even make those patches any more. Now, anyone under 50 years old would be embarrassed to wear jeans WITHOUT holes! As I pondered this, I had to laugh to myself. Not only had I been a trendsetter decades before, but I put the holes in my jeans myself!Nowadays, people pay other people big bucks to wear their jeans out for them! As I ruminated on that thought for a moment, I realized it’s because (glittering generality alert) no one actually plays anymore. Everyone is on their phones, texting and posting to social media. Or playing violent games on their devices. None of that involves getting on your knees and interacting face-to-face with another human being.
So now I’m in the market for a new pair of jeans. Without holes. And made with environmentally friendly dye. That only cost twice as much as my previously favorite brand. Then the songs start going through my head. (Click the links to listen). Blue Jeans Blues by ZZ Top. I Put My Old Blue Jeans On by Keith Urban. Not so much, but still apropos, Forever In Blue Jeans by Neil Diamond. And I start cruising the internet, looking for what may well be my last pair of new blue jeans. And if you see me wearing them with holes in them, you know I made those holes all by myself.