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Pants I have worn
Drift from a Driftless Place

Got to thinking about pants the other day. I read an article in ‘Bloomberg Businessweek’ magazine, the cover story in fact, about the pants business. You may never have given the pants business a second thought, I admit I hadn’t either before reading about Levi’s struggles against the advent of yoga pants. It seems that yoga pants are really creeping up on the competition, to coin a phrase.

America and much of the world seems to live in denim jeans. When they first came out in 1853, jeans were pants made for workingmen, emphasis on working of the hard, outdoor type, and emphasis on the men, for sure. The sturdy denim pants were rugged, (they had rivets for Pete’s sake!) durable, no nonsense, affordable, and popular. A quote in the article from Bart Sights, senior director for Levi’s technical innovation: “There’s not another piece of apparel in the world, probably in the history of mankind—that has remained virtually unchanged.” Jeans are now worn by almost everybody, for work, everyday, casual, even for dress-up occasions. Sights has the challenging job of trying to boost sales of Levi’s for women, a segment of the market that has eagerly adopted yoga pants and other athletic wear.

The fact is that jeans have changed. They are still recognizable as jeans, of course, but they now come in a variety of colors, cuts and styles. And prices. High-end jeans can cost hundreds of dollars. One feature of jeans that I find amusing is the from-the-factory distressed look. We used to stress our jeans ourselves after we bought them brand spanking, dark blue new. New jeans were stiff and turned the laundry water indigo blue a few times when first washed. The article showed people spraying paint on jeans, developing “whiskers” or faded thigh and knee wrinkles, and other characteristics that make new pants look old. It mentioned using sandpaper, oxygen baths, rocks, and lasers(!) to age pants. Some pants come with strategically placed rips and tears; these are the kind of pants one might think would be good for wearing while painting or other grubby jobs.

Call me old fashioned, but I like to buy jeans that look new. It doesn’t take long for my pants to get a lived-in look as I garden, make charcoal, cut wood and other sundry tasks. Small holes get patched with iron-on patches. I did have Kay Smiley at ‘Make and Mend’ rebuild a favorite pair of Carhartt hammer-loop carpenter jeans with 24-inch long patches from the pockets down over the knees that make it look like I’m wearing chaps. The stains, minor tears, frayed cuffs, “whiskers,” and other style features are all genuine and well earned.

They should be ready to pass on in a year or two to anyone who wants to make a fashion statement. I figure they ought to be worth at least $200 by then. Size 34 x 32 if you’re interested.