March 19, 2012

Pre-Owned Jeans [For Less Than $500]

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The PRPS NOIR Collection is not about black denim. Noir utilizes the best selvedge denim fabrics available anywhere in the world– with incredibly extensive washes and old school wear, tear & repair details that are authentic to genuine vintage jeans painstakingly collected over the years worn by real miners, mechanics, and laborers alike. Each jean is handmade and can take up to a week to produce. [Price: $300 -- $500]-- The Selvedge Yard

One of the small economies about living in New York City for years and relocating to the West Coast is to be had in clothing costs. If one of your jobs in New York was being a men's fashion editor for a magazine, you find that you don't buy clothes so much as have them.

In any case, I dumped clothes by the cartload before I moved, and I still had far too many when I arrived. Since I don't ski, the usefulness of items that would put Nanook of the North into a sweat during January in Greenland are pretty dubious. As a result, I've been pretty much out of the clothing shopping cycle for years and I find it, to say the least, refreshing.

In Seattle if you hold some fleece jackets, a couple of hooded sweatshirts, a few work shirts and two pairs of jeans for "formal occasions," you're pretty much done. But "wear happens" and I've noted that my Levis have been getting -- even for Levis -- fairly grotty in the last couple of months. Yesterday, I decided they about to be redefined as "rags," and I so set off to purchase my first new pair of jeans in at least six years.

Since I'm a hit-and-run shopper I did what any American male in search of jeans-to-go would do, I turned left into the parking lot of the first Gap I saw and sauntered inside confident of my mission. Unlike women of my acquaintance who practice "catch and release shopping" in order to increase their collection of designer shopping bags, I knew what I wanted. I also knew how much I was going to spend. This was in sharp contrast to many women who never really spend any money on clothes, but only "save" money on clothes. [ Me: "You look great in that new outfit with the shoes and the hat. How much did they cost?" Her: "Would you believe I saved over $800 on this? How great is that?" Me: "That's really great."]

I firmly believe that if you have to spend more than 15 minutes in a clothing store, you don't need what you think you need. My list was short. I wanted one pair of five pocket denim jeans, blue, crisp, and coming in at no more than $50. The Gap was the place for me.

Fool. Yes, fool. For if you want to find a pair of crisp, new blue jeans in trendy grunge Seattle, you'd better pack a lunch, because you are about to find yourself trapped inside an episode of "Shop Trek."

It's not that you can't buy some new jeans at the Gap, it is just that you can't buy any new new jeans.

Yes, it would seem that sometime in the last decade, the American people have become so fat and so happy and so inordinately lazy that they no longer want to put their own wear, sweat and stress into their Levis. Nope, it seems that the entire country will only buy jeans that have already been worn into a shambles, reduced, as new, to the rags I already had at home.

You've got new jeans at the Gap that look like they've had non-union and unlucky sweatshop employees of Sri Lanka of all shapes and sizes stuffed into them and then dragged for miles along country roads. They've got jeans with the off -the-rack look as if they've been sandblasted at a construction site in Tijuana -- after Happy Hour.

You've got jeans that look as if the person inside them was persuaded to run through a scene of "Dirty Dancing" with a belt-sander .

You've got jeans that seem to have been stolen out of a wedding reception in Afghanistan after a predator strike went terribly wrong.

And you've got jeans that I swear have the finish and light golden color stained deep into the blue that you could only get if you buried them in a Chicago feedlot and let several herds of cattle rain down on them for a month.

Pre-shredded, pre-torn, pre-raveled at the seams, pre-faded, pre-pissed upon and a dozen other industrial or inhuman processes all combined to give me a section of men's jeans at the Gap that looked like the changing room right next to a mass grave. All displayed proudly and marked and priced as "New."

I'd long been aware of a certain market on eBay, Eastern Europe, and Japan among the tragically hip for vintage worn Levis. I'd accepted that as one accepts the fact that there will always be a market real and facsimile shrunken heads. I'd been vaguely conscious of the "stone-washed" process in denim, but thought that was only popular among Suburban housewives of the expanding midriff. But I'd just not caught up with the fact that it was no longer necessary, or fashionable, to break-in your own Levis when you could have a process or a prisoner or a refugee do it for you.

It was once the case that when you bought a pair of Levis they were not only board stiff, they were two sizes large so you could "shrink to fit." The other miracle about them was that they could turn any laundry within two blocks of your house blue for the first five washings. Wear? Wear happened -- slowly, over years, like the mellowing of a fine Bordeaux. Long gone. Where are the Levis of yesteryear? In the Ginzo district in Tokyo selling for $1,110 a pair.

Where are the Levis and Gap jeans of next year? Probably on the ass of some hapless bastards in lock-down at a prison in either Arizona or Bangladesh. After all, if my web host can outsource his service calls to India, surely it is only a matter of time before our Levi pre-wearing is outsourced as well.

Did I buy any new jeans? Of course not. I came home and looked at the two half-rotten pair I own, frayed at the cuff, a hole in one knee, and stained from five years hard-riding. I slipped a pair on, chose an Hawaiian shirt that would be ashamed if it was a tie, slapped a fleece hoody over that, and took a turn in front of the mirror.

Ah, that Tropical-Balkan-Refugee-Gansta look. The very glass of fashion.

Posted by Vanderleun at March 19, 2012 9:50 AM
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Comments:

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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Why, why, why must you tease? Pictures, dammit. PICTURES!

Posted by: Jewel at January 7, 2011 1:38 PM

Costco.
$13.00 a pair.

JWM

Posted by: jwm at January 7, 2011 1:50 PM

MESSAGES FROM MY HELPFUL READERS

Ooops, forgot to turn on comments for an hour.

Here's the other emailed suggestions so far:

Chris advises:    If you don't have a membership, get somebody to take you to Costco. New blue jeans for

Curtis tells me: Gerard, You of all people should know that you buy jeans at Wallyworld. They’re new and you get 3 pairs for a fifty.

Rick helps out with: Just saw your "jeans" post. I too used to be able to walk in to Gap and buy a normal pair of jeans. Honestly, the whole fake-wear thing reminds me of tattoos and limos these days -- $75 and you too can be famous. "I don't play a doctor on TV, I just look like I play a doctor on TV."

Anyways, here's some news you can use. (Don't wear it out.)

Fortunately, I found that Lee still makes normal jeans. And they practically give 'em away. They're always sending me (not to much, but enough times) emails with free shipping, 30% off, etc. I don't know how they can do it.

I mean, if you know your size, it takes two seconds and you get them in a couple days in the mailbox. Don't have to join a club or nuthin.

http://www.lee.com/LEE_STORE_US/en_US/home.html

Even looks like Mike Rowe is working for them now. What's not to like? Someday, normal will be the new normal. Again.

Posted by: vanderleun at January 7, 2011 1:55 PM

Just go to Sears. New Levis. No holes. Still blue. Forty bucks. Of course, it's been a while. Things may have changed.

Posted by: Andy at January 7, 2011 1:56 PM

Thankful you can still fit into five year old jeans!

Posted by: MizzE at January 7, 2011 4:19 PM

Amen to the Sears comment. $29.95 here in upstate NY.

Posted by: Ed at January 7, 2011 4:24 PM

dude - The Gap is for (cough) metrosexuals and assorted other dainty types.

J.C. Penny's for Levis and Kmart (or Wal-Mart) for Wranglers.

In and out in 15 minutes!

Posted by: random coolzip at January 7, 2011 5:00 PM

Shopping is so 20th century. I bought 4 trousers today in 10 min with out leaving my chair. And delivery is free.

Posted by: Fat Man at January 7, 2011 6:28 PM

Costco's. Or a hunting store. Or couldn't you just get them online? My family increasingly finds that we hate the stuff for sale in the clothes stores near us, so we just get things from LLBeans, and the outlet stores when we're up north.

Posted by: retriever at January 7, 2011 6:35 PM

Wierd Ju Ju.
Went shopping just today.
I'd buy online if there was an easy way to digitize my a$$ to send to the shipper for a proper fit.
Call me a dinosaur, I still like playing the game of paper for goods.
J.C. Penny. Lee, $35 for two, double checked in the fitting room.
American Digest ROCKS!

Posted by: Greg at January 8, 2011 12:16 AM

Oh, by the by, I did notice that roughly 1/3 of the jeans on display were trophies from recent Zombie, or Hobo hunts.

Posted by: Greg at January 8, 2011 12:21 AM

Wrangler Rugged Wear. $14 dollars a pop at the factory stores in Draper. They come in "regular" or "widebody" fit, too.

I get six months out of a pair if I can get by without wearing bags daily.

Posted by: TmjUtah at January 8, 2011 12:42 PM

F'n Walmart. Dickies Jeans for like $10-15 (I forget which).

Posted by: Eric Blair at January 8, 2011 2:08 PM

Costco, JCPenney (at Northgate - if you can tolerate the parking lot and the mall), Fred Meyer, all have decent, new, blue jeans.
Happy hunting!

Posted by: Susan in Seattle at January 8, 2011 7:09 PM

Oops! One more, sort of dorky thought: Renton Western Wear ... in fabulous downtown Renton. No joke. They have lots of denim.

Posted by: Susan in Seattle at January 8, 2011 7:15 PM

If you are ever in Bangkok there are Levis stores everywhere and Levis sections in all the department stores. They sell both new blue and the grotty ones.

Posted by: ApacheWarrior at January 9, 2011 10:20 PM

one word: Walmart!

Posted by: k at January 11, 2011 5:38 PM

In the navy boiler room new jeans were a dreaded problem. That stiff feeling in 120 degrees and sweaty doesn't go over too well. We merely ran them through the ship's laundry a half dozen times before we wore them. Worked like a charm. I sure laughed when later in civilian life, the sixties code was the very bell bottomed jeans I had lived in for four years.

Posted by: Don L at January 12, 2011 5:03 PM

I get my Levis at Kohls. I don't go through them as fast as I used to when I worked out at the camp and did actual manual labor - digging, raking, sperating scrap metal, putting brush into the truck and then onto the burn pile - but that is the current place I go. Also for the Dockers, so that I have the casual trousers for day-to-day at the office.

They don't come that board-stiff any longer, with that much dye in them that they need a few washings first (Levi Strauss and Co. must have learned to save money on the dye by cutting it back a bit), but they are whole and sound. I am more than capable of putting my own holes in them and finding other things to stain them still - I don't need the manufacturer to give me the 'look' of honest labor - I can still find that for myself, thank you very much. And still do, surprisingly.

And I know when I need a new pair when the one I have gets too comfortable, too soft. There is a hole in the back pocket where the wallet sits, the front of the legs are going very, very pale, and I know that within a month the tear will begin, and an old friend is going away.

The American people gave to the world the fashion icon that says 'modern' and 'fashionable', and that icon is of the laborer.

Eat your heart out, ghost of the USSR, you ghoul of a bankrupt system - you don't know what work really is.

Posted by: Mikey NTH at January 12, 2011 5:53 PM

I got my last pair of Levis at Sam's Club. $22.
They were out of Lee's at Kohl's--regular price $26, on sale $22.

$50?! I wouldn't pay $26 for jeans even if they were encrusted with Calvin Klein's leftover Cheerios.

Posted by: Kate Rafferty at January 13, 2011 5:35 AM

LLBean Online. $35 Free shipping. Very high quality.

Ain't America grand?

Posted by: ahem at March 19, 2012 9:28 AM

Amazing.

No one mentioned Eddie Bauer, and them being from Seattle and all.

So ... Bauer.

Posted by: ace at March 19, 2012 10:07 AM

"Costco.
$13.00 a pair."

Got you beat: $7.76 a pair - the Goodwill store.

Posted by: newton at March 19, 2012 11:01 AM

Upstate South Carolina-Jeans? Nah, 10 pairs of light weight shorts and 5 pairs of light weight sweat pants. That covers from mid Feb to the end of Nov. Sweats for Nov thru Feb. T-shirts for all year wear. A fleece pull-over for the cool days.
Of course there isn't a Swoosh of any other logo on any item.

It helps to have moved from northern Vermont.

Posted by: Peccable at March 19, 2012 11:39 AM

**Ahem**

Why is it that I am here 25 comments deep before someone has mentioned that Levi Strauss is opposed to the Second Amendment?

Nope. While there was a day when I too wore those stiff-blue button-fly 501s, and in later years had a selection of Dockers, I no longer wear either of these brands. Like movie stars who spout off their liberal credentials, any corporation which takes a liberal stand will get no more money from me.

I'm wearing Carhartts now as I write, and the Wranglers are somewhere in the laundry which I will change into tomorrow. I bought the Carhartts at Cabelas, and the Wranglers at Sportsman's Warehouse.

Posted by: azlibertarian at March 19, 2012 11:51 AM

Am hoping you found suitable since the original post. heh.

Posted by: Jean at March 19, 2012 12:16 PM

Long live cowboys and Cowboy Cut Wranglers

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juWcdZS43MI

Posted by: Rocky at March 19, 2012 1:12 PM

L.L. Bean here, too. The only clothes I've bought in a store in the last decade or so are socks and underwear.

Posted by: rickl at March 19, 2012 4:03 PM

Levi Strauss also cut their ties with the Boy Scouts of America, in the mid-80s, over homosexuality. Many Christian organizations subsequently enacted an unofficial boycott of Levis, which resulted in a 15% loss of market share within a few years. Levi closed all their American plants and went overseas. Publicly they blamed their losses on everything except the boycott.

Partially related: look what happened to K-Mart when they insulted millions of gun owners, who apparently bought a lot more at K-Mart than guns and ammo.

Posted by: Deborah at March 19, 2012 7:44 PM

Levis? Only a gunsel would wear Levis.

Posted by: dr kill at March 19, 2012 7:55 PM

This was the first bit of your work I read ... I liked it. Later, I came upon "The Missing" ... not here at AD and I thought ... No way, couldn't be the same guy. Now I just look forward to seeing what you share next. Umm, one of my sons ordered these ... They were the seventies jeans ... Two sizes too big, remember? You gotta have a little room to rock.

http://us.levi.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2076855

Posted by: DeAnn at March 20, 2012 3:38 PM

THANKS DEANN I appreciate it.

Posted by: vanderleun at March 20, 2012 4:22 PM

"They don't come board stiff anymore."

But I just discovered that they do! Went to Tractor Supply to get dog food and decided to get some new jeans while I was there. Anyway, picked up a pair of Levis regulars and they were so stiff I could hardly get my legs in. Bought 5 pairs at $29.00 each and washed them once. Just like old times.

Posted by: Rick at March 21, 2012 3:41 AM

I don't buy Levis anymore, which is too bad, since they always fit me well.

They're headquartered in SF, and when the gay community declared war on the Boy Scouts, they went right along- removed their ads from Boy's Life, etc, etc, etc.

I declared war on Levis and haven't bought a damned thing off them since. Besides, as P. J. O'Rourke once said, "Dockers are pants for men with fat asses."

Posted by: bud at March 21, 2012 12:35 PM

Gerard. I really enjoy your writing. I forget to say that as often as I notice it..

Posted by: Scott M. at March 27, 2012 10:01 PM

I do like this product, i just felt i had to rub a little more to get my water proof eye makeup off. ,

Posted by: uoxrtinyos at January 30, 2013 4:17 AM

Im glad you all support the outsourcing of american labor. You should fall off your wallets and buy the new american denim being produced in small batches just like they did 5o years ago. And none of the brands you mention are the ones.

Rising sun denim, baldwin, rrl jeans, 3sixteen. Of course those cost money. You cheapskates who want to pay 10 dollars for dishonest labor and chinese materials can sit on here and badmouth levis. But you are just as bad in the cheap clothes you buy you support much worse

Posted by: Ace nightcreeper at October 13, 2013 8:05 AM