April 16, 2009
Where Have I Been. Denim (Blue Jeans) is Underfire. Do I agree?
For men, sartorial good taste can be reduced to one rule:
If Fred Astaire would not have worn it, don't wear it. For women, substitute
Grace Kelly. - George F. Will
Why Jeans Are Evil
(Newser) – Across America, men, women, and children are wearing the same pants: jeans. Not only a sartorial crime, the trend is an “obnoxious misuse of freedom,” rails George Will of the Washington Post. Levi Strauss set out to make tough pants for 49ers who spent all day in the mud, and “it is silly for Americans whose closest approximation of physical labor consists of loading their bags into golf carts to go around dressed for driving steers.”
Today’s denim is a “carefully calculated costume,” designed to look casual, indifferent, exactly as slovenly as the next guy. Actually dressing well “would be to commit the sin of lookism—of believing that appearance matters,” Will explains. “That heresy leads to denying the universal appropriateness of everything, and then to the elitist assertion that there is good and bad taste.”
Source: Washington Post
..and then there is this:
Down With Denim
By DANIEL AKST
If there is a silver lining to a financial crisis that threatens to leave the entire country dressed only in a barrel, it is this: At least we won't be wearing denim.
Never has a single fabric done so little for so many. Denim is hot, uncomfortable and uniquely unsuited to people who spend most of their waking hours punching keys instead of cows. It looks bad on almost everyone who isn't thin, yet has somehow made itself the unofficial uniform of the fattest people in the world.
It's time denim was called on the carpet, for its crimes are legion. Denim, for instance, is an essential co-conspirator in the modern trend toward undifferentiated dressing, in which we all strive to look equally shabby no matter what the occasion. Despite its air of innocence, no fabric has ever been so insidiously effective at undermining national discipline.
[strauss] Associated Press
Did Levi Strauss realize the havoc his creation would wreak on the modern world?
If hypocrisy had a flag, it would be cut from denim, for it is in denim that we invest our most nostalgic and destructive agrarian longings -- the ones that prompted all those exurban McMansions now sliding off their manicured lawns and into foreclosure, dragging down the global financial system with them. Denim is the SUV of fabrics, the wardrobe equivalent of driving a hulking Land Rover to the Whole Foods Market. Our fussily tailored blue jeans, prewashed and acid-treated to look not just old but even dirty, are really a sad disguise. They're like Mao jackets, an unusually dreary form of sartorial conformity by means of which we reassure one another of our purity and good intentions.
There was a time, of course, when not everyone wore denim. In the 1950s, Bing Crosby was even refused entry to a Los Angeles hotel because he was wearing the stuff. (Levi Strauss obligingly ran him up a custom denim tuxedo so he wouldn't have that problem again.) By then denim was a symbol of youthful defiance, embraced by Marlon Brando, James Dean and -- well, just about every self-respecting rebel without a cause. Even Elvis, who didn't often wear denim in public during the early part of his career (like many Southerners, he associated it with rural poverty), eventually succumbed. Now we're all rebels, even a billionaire CEO like Steve Jobs, who wears blue jeans and a black turtleneck whenever unveiling new Apple Computer products.
Although a powerful force for evil, denim has achieved a status that will come as no surprise to fashion historians. Like camouflage fabric, aviator sunglasses and work boots, blue jeans were probably destined for ubiquity thanks to an iron-clad rule of attire adoption. "The sort of garments that become fashionable most rapidly and most completely," Alison Lurie reminds us in "The Language of Clothes," "are those which were originally designed for warfare, dangerous work or strenuous sports."
I can only hope the Obama administration sees denim for what it is: a ghastly but potentially lucrative source of much-needed revenue. Let's waste no time in imposing a hefty sumptuary tax on the stuff. It's a great example of "soft paternalism" (especially if the pants are pre-washed). We can close the budget deficit at the same time we eradicate the fashion deficit. All we've got to do is impose a federal levy on Levi's.
Mr. Akst is a writer in New York's Hudson Valley.
Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page W11