Something strange is happening in the denim business that’s affecting my desire to even wear jeans. Denim is so over-exposed that it’s begun to lose its fresh, fashionable appeal. A tight-fitting pair of jeans has — and always will — look very sexy on the right butt. But lately, more people than not are:
A. Not very sexy.
B. Wearing an unflattering cut.
C. Sporting a tragic wash reminiscent of the ’80s, worn by Guidos and Guidettes and making it all wrong… again.
Rather than go through the history of denim, let’s leave that to the various college classes devoted to the subject. Besides, do you really care what came between Brooke Shields and her Calvins? It is safe to assume not much. The fact remains that people have a deep, meaningful, even conjugal, relationship with their jeans. A favorite pair of jeans might be harder to part with than (perhaps) a loved one.
My love affair with denim started in the late ’60s after transferring from parochial school, where blazers and crisscross ties were required. We had moved (on up), and I was enrolled in an experimental public school where all the kids wore jeans. My first day of class, which was in mid-season and happened to land on April Fools’, was a day that will live in infamy. Not knowing the dress code, I walked into class wearing that wretched parochial school ensemble. There I was, standing in a room of 60 snickering, jeans-clad teenagers. My heart sank. I quickly excused myself, ran to the bathroom, ditched the jacket and tie, tucked out my shirt, returned to the classroom and announced, “Tomorrow, I will be wearing jeans!” And have been ever since that fateful day.
The experience left an indelible mark on my sense of style and affirmed my ability to think fast. That night, I ran to Psychedelic, the local records/head/jeans shop and bought a pair of Landlubber hip-hugger, bell-bottoms with orange stitching that, to this day, I would kill to wear. Remember, it was 1968, and women were burning their brassieres; I supported the Women’s Liberation Movement by throwing all my ties into the fire.
Over the years, I have worked with several denim brands in some incarnation or another. My first job in the fashion industry was assisting Fashion Director Annie Flanders of the SoHo News at that seminal moment when all eyes were on the Style Supplement. It was on the eve of the designer-jean phenomenon, in the late ‘70s, and I was hired by Sasson Jeans, the first company to launch the Parisian-inspired “baggie” jean in the U.S. market. Ooh-la-la. Sasson became a household phrase, and the denim business changed overnight, with brands like Jordache, Sergio Valente and Guess quickly joining the denim fray. (Sometimes even featuring frayed denim.) To this day, Levi’s is still trying to recapture their glory days from the peace and love, free-spirited ’60s. Once the iconic 501s became synonymous with “Gay Clones” followed by the AIDS epidemic, things would never be the same for that style.
Cut to 2011, when the Gap was desperately trying to regain its U.S. market share by re-launching their 1969 jeans, which sort of worked but sort of did not. Their viral campaign was great, but every denim brand and their mother launches a meaningful marketing/advertising/social media campaign these days, much of it very uninteresting. And if I see one more behind-the-scenes making of the fashion-shoot video, I will scream. Thanks to the onslaught of European brands jumping on the bandwagon, we are now saturated with imagery featuring quasi-celebrities, has-beens and worse, real people. Stores are flooded with style options; “new” washes are constantly being introduced, excessive details and adornments abound, much of which is starting to look very similar and frankly, way too overpriced.
There are many reasons why the denim business has become over-saturated. One being that is extremely lucrative. But once Casual Fridays were instituted in the late ’90s, and Yuppies were allowed to wear jeans to work, all hell broke loose. Several recent fashion faux pas have contributed to my current denim malaise:
1. The Home Boy Butt Crack look.
2. Men’s Skinny Jeans worn by men over 25, who are, in fact, not skinny.
3. Obama’s Mom Jeans.
4. Mom Jeans.
5. The Drop Crotch look, that appear as though they’re designed to accommodate Depends.
6. Straight Man’s Jeans that are way too baggy, washed-out and unflattering.
7. Abundant Detailing… as I see it, zippers need to function for dropping drawers. Anywhere else is a no-fly zone.
Lately, I have rediscovered the chino. In the early ’80s, Benetton did a black low-rise, flat-front chino that I was obsessed with and lost along the way. Having just worked with Closed — a Hamburg, Germany-based clothing company that produces chinos with a great cut and cool colors — I have been loving the more relaxed look and feel, especially with the softdepends
er fabric in my nether region. Give me a chino any day to break up the denim monotony. Granted, I am not retiring my jeans completely, but with spring having sprung, I have my new uniform to last me for the next few months.