Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Shopping For Jeans

I've been thinking ( 0r rather, reminiscing ) about jeans, which I must confess is something I've not done much before. The following is what has surfaced .

My friend Pete, at the age of 15, first introduced me to the concept of the Levis 501 ( or was it 601?) and the cold bath 'shrink to fit' ritual. I was amazed. And impressed ( and he had the first Who album).
I never followed suit. I obviously wasn't serious enough. I think my first jeans were Lee. And then a couple of modish short-lived brands. And then some Wranglers. At one stage some OshKosh dungarees ( well, I was running a wholefood cafe).
In the mid 70's , when I rediscovered clothes that fitted I came across Fiorucci  jeans. And they did sizes to every inch; not just 30, 32, 34, but 30, 31, 32. Best fitting jeans I ever owned.
Then I remember some Pepe jeans fitted well. But the rest is all a bit of a  blur of indifferently fitting Levis, Wranglers, Lee Cooper. I sort of took my eye off the sartorial ball ( otherwise known as reaching middle-age).
A few years ago I started to make a bit more of an effort and came across some Paul Smith velvet jeans. They didn't fit as well as the Fioruccis , and my sons weren't entirely convinced of their appropriateness, but I liked them. And then some Valentino black denim ( but I had to remove the back pocket label- just a  bit too flash for my liking)
Currently my badly fitting Levis are consigned to gardening duty. But I do have two pairs of jeans that fit, and I'm happy to wear.
I am told that 7 For All Mankind were a fashionable label last year, which is when I bought them. I was visiting friends in the USA and said that I wanted some new jeans. A modest ambition. So the charming Ms T took me to Barneys LA. Well, that's what I call shopping. The terribly nice young assistant asked what I was looking for. They appeared to have countless brands and styles. I said I wanted dark blue denim, straight leg, and no extraneous ornamentation.He delivered six pairs for me to try. I chose the ones that I felt fitted best, which was confirmed by my shopping companion. It was only then that I looked at the label ( and the price). They have subsequently prompted the occasional compliment.
My second pair were purchased more recently, from Uniqlo, the Japanese retail brand with a couple of branches in London. A completely different experience, close to being challenging, and certainly quite hard work. Primarily because this is a youthful shop. But it's quite utilitarian in design so one doesn't feel that it is a completely alienating environment. They have  a wide range of styles, but, of course no help from the assistants.  I persevered , and came away with a well fitting pair of straight leg jeans with no contrived fading or rips. They also have no branding, which for me is a plus. And, another plus, they were very cheap.

Jeans and the Older Male

Should they or shouldn't they?
It's a question that others have asked.
I actually don't think it's an age thing. But rather a 'looking ok' thing.
Some chaps have never looked anything but a bit baggy or disheveled in jeans. Arguably they were ill-advised to have ever worn them in the first place. But as we ourselves get baggier that's an awkward look to live with. Because it accentuates loss of youth, when scruffy was perhaps the order of the day, or even a post-modern signifier of something. But if you once looked ok in jeans there is a fair chance you still might.
Apologies to 'The Thoughtful Dresser' readers for another music reference, but I saw Bruce Springsteen ( soon to be 59) recently. He has shown no desire to change the way he looks, with denim much in evidence. And he looked entirely sound. Well, sound enough to have a fair number of considerably younger women swooning ( as shown on the giant video screens). But if he hadn't been so energetic, skipping ( yes, skipping) about the stage for two and a half hours, and been quite so trim, then arguably he wouldn't have looked so good.
Small but crucial detail: his jeans fitted.
They don't always . My last two pairs of Levis have been highly unsatisfactory in that department. I bought them whilst in blokeish mode- find the right size, and then a cursory try on, because sometimes a bloke feels too inhibited to be parading around the store being , for want of a better word, vain. Mistake.
As you get older the fit becomes  both more problematic and more important. So to get it right you may actually have to apply yourself. And do that thing called shopping.
More on that anon.

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