McCall

McCall

That’s what we used to call them, “blue jeans.” Now we call them “jeans.”

Jeans are as much a part of Americana as baseball, hot dogs and apple pie. In my 60-plus years I have observed an interesting, and sometimes amusing, evolution in jean fashion. What started out as sublime now borders on the ridiculous. We’ve come a long way, baby?

In the late 1950s, we wore jeans for their utility. They were constructed of heavy denim, and as an old friend of mine used to say, “They would wear like iron.” Those jeans were so stiff you could stand a new pair in the corner.

I remember wearing a new pair of jeans to school one day when I was in elementary school. I was so proud. My mother purchased them from Sears, Roebuck and Co., and she bought them big enough so I had room to grow. I wore them with a four-inch cuff turned up. In the 1950s, cuffs were “in” (fashion.)

When I came home from school that day, the backs of my legs just above my knee had been rubbed raw. It took a liberal application of Cloverine salve to take the red away. They don’t make jeans the way they use to.

By the time I entered high school cuffs were a thing of the past. Straight-legged jeans were the rage. In a few more years, bell-bottoms made the scene. Along with bell-bottoms came lower waists and the “faded” craze. I think that was the beginning of the “un-kept” look.

More recently, it has been referred to as the “grunge” look. As a side note, it sadly reflects a decline in self-esteem among our younger generation.

Along the way, the Madison Avenue (New York fashion “experts”) crowd decided jeans needed to look like they had been worn. That ushered in the “stone washed” era. Can you imagine adding sand to a washing machine loaded with jeans in order to artificially create “wear.” Well, that’s what jean manufacturers did (and are still doing.)

Gone are the days when you wore jeans to make them “look” worn. And over the years people have paid a high price for artificial “wear.”

I remember the first time I mistakenly wore one of my better pairs of blue jeans to the hay field. That year we were hauling hay which was a combination of Laredo soybeans and millet. Soybean hay is known for being “stemmy.”  Anyone familiar with picking up square bales knows that you use your thigh a lot to support the hay bale as you carry it to the hay wagon. By the end of the day, that soybean hay had worn most of the color out of the front of my blue jeans. I was embarrassed to wear those jeans to school. Little did I know I was years ahead of the coming fashion trends.

Today, consumers pay over $100 for jeans that look worn out. I mean “really” worn out – even with holes in them … big holes.  Recently, I walked by a clothing store which caters to the younger generation and saw an entire rack of jeans which not only sported excessive holes, but had paint splattered on them. I just had to take a closer look. The price … $129. I walked away shaking my head.

Why would someone pay that kind of money for a mutilated pair of jeans? Go figure.

Remember when people wore patched jeans and overalls because they chose not to, or could not afford a new pair? My grandfather, Herod Brim, who was known for his frugality, wore overalls which had patches on patches.

My grandmother, Lena Brim, was an accomplished seamstress.

She taught me the art of the needle and thread. When our boys were growing up, I would patch holes in their jeans, not only to extend the life of the jeans, but also because I enjoyed sewing. Talk about popular! Their patched jeans became a rage among their friends. I started receiving requests to patch the jeans of their friends! 

One final note on wearing jeans with holes in them — there is a funny line I came across when I was growing up that goes like this: “When the Lone Ranger ripped his pants, they found his hide out.”

It is my opinion, with the shortening of blouses and the lowering of waistlines and all these holey jeans, far too much “hide” is meeting the eyes.

Jack McCall is a motivational humorist, southern storyteller and author.  A native Middle Tennessean, he is recognized on the national stage as a “Certified Speaking Professional.” He can be reached at jack@jackmccall.com Copyright 2020 by Jack McCall.

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