The Blue Jean Situation

Blue jeans never get old, they just get better.

About every twelve months, it’s time to buy new jeans. As a brand loyalist and an American, I prefer Levi’s jeans. I know that in some corners of society that choice makes me old, but I have never bought into any of the other brands, or pants that happen to be made from denim. I prefer the yellow stitching and the red tag against a field of indigo blue.

My choice was ratified recently by none other than the actress Penelope Cruz. In a series of interviews she did promoting her latest movie, she wore Levi’s jeans, a white sweater and a black leather jacket. So if you think I am old, I don’t care, because I am on team Penelope. Or rather she is on team Dean as I am sure she sees it.

I am told that foreigners can pick out Americans at international airports, because we tend to wear jeans when traveling. I’ve never stopped to consider what others are wearing in the terminal. I suppose it is more common today to wear sweat pants(athletic clothes) or cargo pants when on a non-business flight.

When traveling, I try to pack light, but I always make room for a pair of jeans. They are one of the heaviest items of clothing you can carry, but there are none more comfortable and there are none that provide a greater sense of home when you are away.

It is the style these days to wear jeans with holes in them. The more, the bigger, the most strategically placed, the better. I recently saw a woman with a brand new pair of jeans with holes ripped in them that would have taken years to produce naturally, but these holes had somehow been built-in straight from the factory, like heated seats or a back up camera. I find the hole style amusing, because when I was in my early teens the style was to patch old jeans. The more patches, the more stylish you were. I predict the patch style is due for a comeback.

Though blue jeans are considered an American fashion, most of the big brands no longer produce in the United States. My latest batch came from Bangladesh. This does not detract from the proud to be an American feeling I get when I pull on a pair.

As I have gotten older it’s harder to pick out a pair of jeans. From Barack Obama to my next door neighbor, any man over forty has to be concerned that his new jeans have a casual yet rugged look and do not carry the fit of mom jeans.

I used to go to the same store once a year to pick up two pair, hold them in my hands, check out the cut, maybe even try them on just to make sure. In recent years, even before the Covid era, I buy my jeans on-line directly from the company. It is hard to choose. The Levi’s website has dozens of cuts and colors. Of course they all look good on the models, but which style fits me? I do a twist to look over my shoulder and under my belt to see which number I bought last time and click two pair in regular blue, knowing they will turn the perfect shade of light blue in a couple of months.

A few days later the deliveryman tosses them onto my front steps. I know by the sound of the thud what’s inside the package. I go to the door and pick up the bag and feel the familiar weight and flexibility of the fabric. I open the bag and can smell the fresh denim and feel the rough smoothness of the dark blue, yet to be broken in cloth. The senses recall old memories of a life in blue jeans.

The feel of a Sunday morning drive. An early spring walk on the beach. An autumn walk in the woods. Blue jeans and a bulky sweater in a wintertime bookstore. With popcorn at the movies. With friends anywhere. In the garden. On the yellow seat of a John Deere tractor. Writing long hand in a coffee shop. Or with a woman, who is a friend of mine, wearing blue jeans and a white t-shirt.

Each new pair will carry me through a new set of stories, a new set of moments, a new period of my life, until they fade, and thin, and wear out, at first over lapping with and then being replaced by a new pair. Next year.

Writer’s note: I have no affiliation with Levi Strauss, Penelope Cruz, or John Deere.

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Photojournalism for Brands and Ideas.

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Dean Pagani

Dean Pagani

Photojournalism for Brands and Ideas.

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