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Pre-Owned Jeans

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 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 a 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.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • MIKE GUENTER September 7, 2019, 8:57 AM

    Go Wranglers. Just as good as Levi’s, but at one third the price if you can force yourself to venture into a Walmart.

    I bought a couple of pairs of Wranglers when I was in Montana at a fancy boot store. I found them on sale for less than $30 bucks a pair. If I hadn’t been so parsimonious, and paid + $50 bucks a pair, I would have received a pair of tickets to the rodeo, which I wouldn’t have even been in town to see.

    If Walmart isn’t to your taste, there’s always one of the upscale stores such as Macy’s or Nordstrom’s, but there’s a premium to be paid for shopping in those stores.

  • DAN September 7, 2019, 10:57 AM

    for years & years i sported a 27 in.waist & the only levis that fit were student size, ordered from anyplace that had 27×34. still have a couple brand new pairs from the early 90s. alas waist got a touch bigger, not much 28 in.but still just enough that can,t fit in them comfortably. just for shits &giggles try & find 28 in.waist pants, same as trying to find a decent shirt in size medium ?? WTF everything is XXXL. talk about FAT & LAZY. not only that but the cheap bastards keep shortening the tails of the shirts so you have piss all to tuck in, also shrinking the damn pockets, can hardly get a pack of smokes in,never mind the lighter, western style shirts,snaps not buttons 2 pockets, thank you. but we don’t notice these little things do we?? DAMN RIGHT WE DO !!

  • Rob De Witt September 7, 2019, 11:12 AM

    Thirty bucks a pair is a bargain?

    If you ever find out about “hungry,” you’ll discover you can buy Rustler jeans via KMart for less than $15. They fit fine, they last great, they come in various shades of denim. All they lack is some branded stitching on the back pockets.

    The black ones even serve for formal hipster occasions.

  • Missy September 7, 2019, 11:30 AM

    Hilarious. I read part of this to a local farmer who calls on me, and he said “get the Rustlers at the Walmart. The $12.88 ones.” There you go.

  • ghostsniper September 7, 2019, 11:33 AM

    Until now I never realized I had a small fortune hanging in my closet, mostly Carhartt, all beat to death under the guise of real work. One pair, bought new for about $30, was instantly ruined the first time I wore them when building a large pergola for a client. I got dark purple stain all over one leg and the left ass cheek was ripped sliding off a tall, rusty tractor seat. My hiney survived intact, thenkew veddy much.

    So according to that ghetto trash website there are people out there willing to pay $300 for such things, things I can no longer wear in public. My lifetime spans a distance when even brand new jeans were not permissible most places, especially school, and now it is laudable and even stylish to wear stuff that doesn’t even make good shop rags. Yeah, I said ghetto trash. Go look it up.

    If the ninnies wearing that stuff were forced to spend a week or so working in an environment that produces the evidence of such toil they would never make themselves looks so foolish ever again.

  • MIKE GUENTER September 7, 2019, 11:42 AM

    @ Rob and Missy,

    I used to buy the hell out of Rustler jeans back in the day. I could maybe get a year out of a pair if I lost em in my closet for about 3 months.

    Sometimes I can get the Wranglers for less than 20 bucks, if I want to fight the crowds at Walmart.

    When I bought those jeans in Montana, there wasn’t a Walmart in sight plus it was convenient to my route back and forth to work.

  • Rick September 7, 2019, 12:00 PM

    You’re looking in the wrong place. There are Tractor Supply stores all around Seattle with Wranglers for $25.00 and up. They also sell Carhart jeans. Coastal Farm, 17 locations in the PNW, has Levis for $45.00. Amazon has Levis for $30.00 and up which would save you from going into a store at all.

  • Jeff Brokaw September 7, 2019, 2:36 PM

    Imagine trying to explain to your grandfather the concept that people willingly pay big sums for dirty clothes with holes in them.

  • Vanderleun September 7, 2019, 4:52 PM

    It’s the kind of challenge I’d like to see the end of.

  • Gordon Scott September 7, 2019, 6:42 PM

    Carharts are okay, and I still have a couple of pairs of Wranglers. I haven’t had Levi’s since…what, 1984? But what I wear now are Duluth Trading pants. The firehose pants last a long, long time, and your back pocket will wear out before the rest of the pants do. I have their jeans also, and I like them. Triple stitching and they can handle the tomcat deciding to do hanging stretches from them.

    Yeah, they’re expensive. But there are plenty of sales, and they’ll take them back for just about any reason. I have one of their parkas. I got it at the end of the season and it’s the only coat I’ve had in 20 years that actually fits.

    My wife owns about 20 of their tank tops, but that’s another story.

  • Anon September 7, 2019, 11:02 PM

    Two words:

  • John The River September 8, 2019, 5:00 AM

    I’m going to try Duluth, thanks.

    Levi’s of course = “Get Woke, Go Broke”. I hope.

  • Nobody Atall September 8, 2019, 7:04 AM

    I second the K-Mart referral above … they carry Lee jeans, the only ones that fit my sorry ass, and come in shades from blackest black on down. If you can get to a K-Mart … they’ll be closing ours in the next year 🙁

  • Kathryn of Wyoming September 8, 2019, 7:14 AM

    My husband is a diehard 501, shrink to fit, button fly, Levi wearer and wouldn’t wear another pair of jeans on pain of death. He wouldn’t dream of wearing a pair of those shoddy Wranglers and I just dyed my brand new Whirlpool washer a beautiful, indigo blue shrinking his latest four new pair. I wouldn’t mind a bit if he would try another not so blue brand.

  • Montefrío September 8, 2019, 9:03 AM

    I gave up on any sort of jeans when they became expensive and stopped offering “longs”. I’m 6’3″ with a 34″-35″ waist and hip-huggers ain’t for me. Good ol’ Redkap work pants aren’t all cotton, but they’re sturdy and hold a crease. Cargo pants are also acceptable and have handy deep pockets. I live in a rural area in South America and couldn’t care less about style (I’m 73), but do prefer to be neat when venturing off the property. We have bombachas (gaucho pants), but I use those for garden work, given that at my height, they look like pedal-pushers on me. I like to believe that I’ve abandoned vanity, but…

    When I see a woman with those jeans that have pre-cut, symmetric holes in them, no matter how well she fills them, I can’t help but think “This is not someone I’d want in my house for more time than a quick roll in the hay” regardless of the fact that said rolls are few and far between at this stage of the game.

    I guess I’ll slowly but surely have that fashionable “pre-owned pants” look simply because I won’t be buying many new pairs of pants going forward. What a wonderful revelation!

  • ghostsniper September 8, 2019, 10:54 AM

    Montefrío mentioned cargo pants.
    I’m from Florida and wear shorts almost exclusively, unless there is a mandatory reason to wear longs. I went on a short searching mission a couple years ago because I was fed up with the selection. After a lot of time and money spent, I found the Redhead brand at Bass Pro almost acceptable. That is, better than anything else out there. Reasonably priced, decent fit, subdued colors. However, they are cargo shorts and have that inevitable flaw that plagues all cargo shorts. They have ruined all the lower cabinet doors in our kitchen and all 3 bathrooms. One door is so bad that my wife is riding my ass to fix it – which I will do one of these days after I’ve done all the other stuff she wants me to do.

    I don’t like cargo pockets and never use them but it’s impossible to find reasonably priced, grown men’s shorts, without them. So I suffer. First off, all my regular pockets already have stuff in them all the time. To put stuff in the cargo pockets makes them stick out to there and it’s difficult to get stuff out of the regular pockets when the cargo’s are loaded. I have no use for cargo pockets and wish none of my shorts had them.

    The sides of the cargo pockets stick out and catch on stuff. They catch on the lower cabinet door handles and snatch em sideways racking the hinges, mostly the lower hinges. If the hinges are the European style it can yank the whole door off the cabinet, which is actually not too bad cause they can be just snapped back in place, if they don’t go bouncing across the floor and bitchin’ up the corners. But all our kitchen cabinet doors are the screw in type and when they get snatched the hinge cannot pop loose like the european ones so the metal itself gets violently bent. I’ve taken the bent hinges off and pounded them back into shape on the anvil but you can never get stretched metal to be what it was before. Close. But no macaroon. They look crooked and need to be replaced.

    Replacement means finding the receipt for where I bought them 6 years ago when I gutted the kitchen, then going to that place and hoping they still have them. The receipt is, hopefully, in that file cabinet over there that hasn’t been sorted ever. See what I mean? Ever tried to find hinges in a big box? It’s not for the meek. There are thousands. Chrome, brass, black, white, bronze, antique bronze, rose chrome. Rose chrome??? WTF is that? shrug

    I don’t know what it is but every time I go to one of those places they always have 1 less than what I’m wanting. That is, after I find it. I chase down the person that works that dept and disappointingly it is a female. Oh no. And a young one at that. Dumb as a box of you know whats. You really are on your own in the retail sector any more, even if they do have a few NPC’s wandering around.

    So, say the planets align, the wind is blowing the right way, my biorhythms are all peaked out, and I get all the hinges I need and fix the cabinets and my wife is happy for the first time in 3 months. That night at supper I’ll be loading my plate and dash to the fridge for a condiment and I’ll get stopped dead in my tracks and have to reach down and grab that cabinet door that just got annihilated by my cargo pocket before it hits the floor while letting loose a string of national and religious insults. sigh And the cycle starts all over again, and my wife is standing there with crossed arms frowning and Shannon is peering out from under the table wondering if WW3 is over yet. None of my wife’s little brightly colored pull on shorts even have pockets and if she leaves the house she has that purse to carry all her essentials. Maybe I should get me some pull on’s and a European Carry-all and become the soi-boi society is forcing me to be….

  • Daniel K Day September 8, 2019, 5:10 PM

    Thanks for that, GS. I wondered if it was just me accidentally snatching the doors with my cargo pants. You perform a public service, GVDL.

  • Mike Bell September 8, 2019, 8:37 PM

    It’s G-i-n-z-a (was there last year) – not Ginzo. Thanks for writing this article. Belly laughs.

  • Island Girl September 8, 2019, 10:10 PM