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I ran across this photo spread in Outside Magazine today: Winter's Best Jeans

I've long been a fan of regular Levi's 501 jeans, but nowadays they cost in excess of $40. Still, that's a bargain compared to the $80 to $200 for the denims pictured in this article, and I've been planning to shop for a new pair... for traumatic reasons which I may detail in a separate post.

A few days ago I spent a couple of hours browsing in Wal-Mart while waiting to have an oil change done on the car. Yeah, I know, "real men" change their own oil. But I didn't want to risk staining my "pre-weathered" two-hundred dollar Levi's Capital E Eco Hesher Regular Straight Leg Jeans, seeing as how they already look ratty enough straight off the shelf.

I'm kidding. I can't afford two-hundred dollar trousers. And if I could, they'd better be something so sharp they'd put James Bond to shame in the swank department.

No, instead, I'm browsing around Wal-Mart and as I wander through the menswear department I notice "Faded Glory" blue denim jeans for $9.95 a pair. There's another brand, "Rustlers," for $10.95 a pair. I paused to check them out. Hmmm... not all that different from Levis. I tried on a few sizes and styles.

Here's my take on those d@mned "relaxed fit" or "comfort cut" or whatever euphemism they use for "fat boy" pants. Or "phat boy" pants, I suppose, since they're so popular with gangstas and hoodlums and guys who like to wear baggy pants down around their knees to show off their Underoos. Which, if they were wearing Underoos, might be cool, but usually they're just wearing plain old boxer shorts. Whatever you call 'em, and no matter how bad-@ss you think they make you, or your @ss, look, those wide-bottoms (as opposed to bell bottoms) leave you looking like that guy whose picture used to be in the Guinness Book of World Records. You don't even have to click on the link, 'cuz you know the guy I mean. (However, the wonders of the internet have made accessible, to my utter amazement, actual moving picture footage of that Guinness Book guy! )

But I digress. My question is: what is the difference between the ten-dollar "Faded Glory" jeans or the eleven-dollar "Rustler" jeans at Wal-Mart and the coupla-hundred dollar jeans promoted in Outside Magazine? I mean, is there a ten- to twenty-fold difference in quality? In fit? In style?

I must admit, I had to pass on the less expensive "Faded Glory" brand, because all they had in stock were the Guinnes Book of Records guy style, and go with four pair of the pricier eleven-dollar "Rustlers" regular-cut jeans. I mean, four pairs of jeans for the price of one pair of Levi's 501s! Deal, huh?

I suppose buying eleven dollar jeans pretty much relegates me to the "trailer trash" heap for the remainder of my days, don't it?

Seriously, I want to know: is there a valid reason to buy two-hunnert dollar "overalls"? Are there people out there who can tell the difference? If there are, are they people to whom I should be concerned about making the right impression?

I mean, okay, I examined these clothes fairly closely. Even I noticed a few differences. The smoothness of the zipper on the cheap jeans doesn't quite measure up to that in Levi's 501s, for example. But, there's hardly thirty dollars worth of difference. Perhaps it's small-minded on my part, but I can't conceive of a zipper improvement that would warrant a one-hundred fifty dollar difference in price.

Maybe people pay the extra money because they want their clothes to look "worn out" without having to wear them out. If that makes sense. Which it doesn't. I wore my new cheap jeans the next couple of days when I went power-tripping around town with Trippy, including a hot, sweaty, dusty off-trail scrabble through the brush and cacti to reach an abandoned machine-gun emplacement on a ridge above the Makapu'u lighthouse trail. The knees and the backside held up, so the quality's there. The zipper didn't come undone. Actually, the red dirt brushed right off, so they still don't look "fashionably filthy." Maybe that's the problem with cheap jeans, they don't get grungy fast enough. I shoulda worn them when I oiled up my bicycle chain this afternoon.

I guess I truly am "trailer trash." Poor trailer trash, because even if somebody can clarify why I should be buying buck and a q denims, I can't really afford to do that. Not without dipping into my beer money, anyway.

I did buy some genuine Converse All-Stars recently. Forty-two bucks for sneakers. I don't know how "genuine" they really are, seeing as how they're made in Vietnam. That would be the country in which we lost the war previous to the one we're losing now. Where the Commies took over. In response to which we said, "okay, you win, so now, pretty please, may we move the production of the All American Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars basketball shoes to your communist country?" Anyway, I don't yet have a good photo of myself wearing my new All-Stars, but guess who else liked Converse sneakers? Yup, the Guinness Book guy! He even left 'em untied, just like the cool kids today! That cat was "phat" before his time!


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 23rd, 2008 06:00 am (UTC)
Not a $200 difference, but I think at least a $40 difference. For girl pants, anyway!
Mar. 24th, 2008 01:58 pm (UTC)
Yesterday when I was making Easter dinner I was listening to Tolle's The New Earth (*Oprah asterisk!) on CD and thought of this recent post of yours . . .

He dares his readers (I'm not sure dare is the right word . . . Tolle's voice is so puny and weak . . . perhaps it's best to say he "timidly exhorts" his readers) to contemplate rejecting competitive materialism and examine what emotions surface when they do so.

Although he doesn't come right out and say anything specific about cheap jeans (Tolle is clever that way), he does talk about how advertisers feed the ego by convincing us that what we really need is to "stand out" . . . They trick us into products with the promise that we can somehow be "more ourselves" if we acquire this/that object. Not exactly a brilliant new insight into advertising, but I think where he is going with the idea is to link it with what he calls "the collective mental illness of society" . . .

Tolle says human minds are hard-wired to be crazy from birth, and pretty much every religion and spiritual practice acknowledges that fact in one way or another, but call it something else (e.g. "sin"). One aspect of this insanity is equating what we own with who we are which feeds an endless cycle of greed, competition and pointless acquisition. This in turn leads to quests for power and ultimately, violence.

I won't try to paraphrase any more. (If you're interested, follow the *O! directions below)

I'll wrap up by saying Tolle would probably give your cheap jeans a "namaste." They're a step in the right direction for personal happiness and a healthier collective consciousness . . .

* re: Oprah Asterisk! NE is an Oprah Book of the Month, so in a couple of months it will be very easy to pick up a cheap copy.

Edited at 2008-03-24 05:01 pm (UTC)
Mar. 25th, 2008 04:03 am (UTC)
Your observations are both thought-provoking and entertaining, and warrant lengthier discussion than what I'm capable of at present. I shall be considering your words... and looking for Tolle's book at upcoming "Friends of the Library" sales.

(I'm currently going "Old Skool" with the self-improvement books: I'm taking a Pocket Books edition of Maxwell Maltz's The Magic Power of Self-Image Psychology, a follow-up to Psycho-Cybernetics, as my in-flight reading material.)
Mar. 24th, 2008 06:35 pm (UTC)
I buy cheap as well.
Nnot just jeans but basically everything (except food, but you could have guessed that alright ^_^). And there is a difference.

If you buy a $10 jeans and a $30 jeans, and you like them and go back to the shop you will probably notice. After buying the same numerical size of the $10 jeans you notice it doesn't fit. You buy ten of the same size jeans and they are all slightly different. With the $30 jeans the variability is less, buy ten of those and they all fit.
Another point to note is that often the cheapest wares -especially with tshirts- don't stand up to wear and washing as well. After three or four washing cycles they are so out of shape as to be unusable.

But I think that is part of the positive side effect. If you but them at a tenth of the price and wash them just a quarter as much you still come out cheaper. And you can change your 'style' much easier without throwing out a fortune on clothes. Clothes are not an investment.

ps, The Vietnam war was in the end won by the Americans. Ever since the last marines pulled out they have been off-shore slaves to the $$$$.
Mar. 25th, 2008 04:13 am (UTC)
You appreciate and recognize "quality," (particularly in your food); I try to do the same. If there were a legitimate "quality" reason to buy $150.00 denim jeans, I probably would do so. But I'm not seeing it. I'd say about $140 of that $150 is the "savvy marketing mark-up."

It's also an indication of the ever-increasing economic gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots." Over a hundred dollars for trousers that look like they're dirty and worn out? I know that's only about sixty-five euros, but still!

I would suggest that the French actually won in Vietnam. They handed the conflict over to the U.S., dedicated themselves to food and wine and hosting bicycle races, and thirty years later are congratulating themselves as they take six-week vacations while the Euro trounces the dollar in the financial markets!
Mar. 25th, 2008 06:17 pm (UTC)
Trousers or wine ... much the same thing.
Cheap wine, at <2€ a bottle may and may not be drinkable. But at that price you can afford to buy a bottle, taste it and pour it away if it's bad. Or enjoy it when it's good. Don't count on storing it in a good basement for ten years though. Wine at around 5€ usually is good sometimes very good and storable for a couple of years. Sometimes you throw it out. Wine of 20€ usually is good and tends to age well. If it's not prime you probably drink it anyway.
But there are bottles that go well over 100€. I stay away from these. Even if they are exceptionally good they don't come out 10 times better than a good 10€ bottle. But if I had some of those and they turned out bad I doubt I could pour them out.

So, in my basement you'll find plenty of bottles in the 5 to 10€ range, some at around or over 20€ and a coule below the 5€ mark. The real cheap but still good ones don't reach the basement, not worth storing so I keep them in the kitchen. For instant use ^_^

Ho, but the French lost it. Just go to Vietnam and talk French. Nobody understands you. And 90% of the bicycles in their Tour de France are not "fabricé en France"
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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