I both love and hate the ripped jeans fashion. I love it because in the olden days– Connie sits in her rocker, wraps herself in a shawl, and takes a sip of her tea before continuing– we owned one maybe two pairs of jeans that we wore incessantly. Without ceasing. I would sit in my bedroom in my underwear during the infrequent washings waiting for them to be dry.
We came by our holes and rips honestly. None of this pre-torn business. I could tell you, like scars on my body, the story of each denim degradation. They were badges of honor.
And when they became too ripped or too torn, we mended them with embroidery and/or patches. Mine were a kaleidoscope. Before tattoos, we adorned our jeans with images and words and symbols. Thus, there were no large rips, but as grunge took hold in the 90s, ripped jeans sans embroidery were sported. These too were come by honestly, I think. At least for the most part. I had an old pair of Levis that developed a hole. The hole lengthened and widened. During one washing, they split from mid-thigh to knee. I was still young enough that flashing that part of my leg was kind of sexy, the rip was positioned so as not to be obscene.
I wore those jeans around the house and to the beach. I actually thought of them as my beach jeans. I rather enjoyed sitting on the balcony at night, drinking wine, and watching the glimpse of skin through my ripped jeans get darker and darker. I didn’t wear them out anywhere, mind you. Well, maybe to the gas station or to pick up pizza, but they were comfort jeans. They finally just disintegrated – tore and split so much that they were no longer comfortable or interesting. I couldn’t bear to throw them away. They are upstairs somewhere. I have a lot of memories infused in those jeans. The ones from my youth, the embroidered ones, were thrown out by mom as she thought I had outgrown them. I had, but I was bereft all the same. They were a scrapbook of my life.
Now, my jeans except for one pair that are just starting to get suitably worn, are pristine and suitable for work and heels. Yoga pants, for the most part, have replaced my daily pair of jeans as my comfort vehicle. They just don’t have the same panache. And comfortable though they are, they are still not as comfortable as vintage shrink-to-fit, button-fly Levi’s. I still have those. They are indestructible but I am, at present, too large to wear them. I will get back in them. I will.
Those lovelies conform to your body and remember the curves and straightaways. A marvel of clothing construction. These were the original jean marketed during the gold rush. They are much too large when you buy them. Much too large. There’s a conversion chart to use. After purchase, you don them and sit in a bathtub of warm water. Launder and dry them. Rinse and repeat until the magic time when you took them out of the dryer and put them on to find it was like being naked with pockets. You had reached nirvana. With every washing, they’d tighten up a bit but relax to the proper size after a few minutes. Levi’s shrink-to-fit 501s were the pinnacle of jean technology.
Every now and again, I see them for sale. Always expensive, the price is now really silly, but these things were thick and indestructible. I don’t think I ever tore or developed a hole in the shrink-to-fits. I have some, pining for my 20-year-old body to return, that are more than 40 years old. They sit there in the jean bin, just waiting to be worn and loved again.
So, I very much hate these pre-ripped, pre-distressed jeans with both knees torn out symmetrically or worse the Venetian blind effect on the thighs. That’s just gauche.
But I adore my vintage jeans – the ones that earned those rips through hard wear and good times.