Sunday, June 16, 2013
Father's Day Re-Run: Forever in Blue Jeans
This ran in October 2009 and had more to do with blue jeans than dads. But I've come to think of it as a Father's Day story. It, to me, seems to say a lot about fathers, sons and how we live our lives. Of course, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it is all about blue jeans. Either way, Happy Father's Day!
I knew I’d taken another leap toward insanity when I stared into the dresser drawer, the one dedicated to denim, saw six pairs of nearly identical blue jeans and thought: “Hmmm, maybe it's time to spring for another pair of blue jeans.”
And it’s true. I do need another pair.
I have my church blue jeans, my casual dress up blue jeans, my outdoor work blue jeans, and my trusty bar blue jeans (three pair).
It’s another reminder of the ways I don’t measure up to the old man.
Daddy never wore blue jeans.
He was an optician, a profession that doesn’t exactly stack up with lumberjacks and oil derrick leathernecks on the hombre scale.
But the man had style. He was always careful about his appearance and paid attention to how he looked. No matter the task, he always managed to wear spiffy clothing -- or at least half of him did. I’ll never forget the times I’d see him, shirtless, hunkering down in the garden out back, a posture that inevitably led to him unintentionally mooning the neighbors as he labored over the sprawl of zucchini.
I never got to ask him, he died in 2004, why he didn’t own jeans. But I suspect I know the answer: He thought they made him look poor.
I believe men from his august generation, the ones like my Dad who grew up poor, spent their lives trying to ensure they never looked it.
Sadly, my generation does the opposite.
I know many fine and dandy attorneys and bankers who dress as if they were as financially inconsequential as, well, underemployed freelance writers.
They never touch a lawn mower or a chain saw, yet they forever dress during their social time as if they were about to go dig a ditch.
Me, I enjoy outdoor work, but it’s ridiculous to own six pairs of blue jeans when all most of them do is protect my butt from an angry spring on poorly upholstered stool 7 down at the neighborhood tavern.
It’s an undeniable pity that as us men have gotten softer, our clothes have gotten tougher.
The toughest Americans ever, the continent conquerors who labored under Lewis & Clark, robed themselves, not in rugged blue jeans and steel-toed boots, but in animal skin and mocassins. They didn’t practice yoga, engage in team building exercises or require therapeutic counseling when a supply raft dashed against the rocks and sank all their jerky.
But just listen to the bitching in any airport from men in designer jeans who become incensed that United Airlines is charging them an extra $50 to tote their golf sticks cross country to Palm Springs for five days of desert recreation.
And, here’s a secret: Blue jeans, even the posh ones, aren’t all the comfortable. They’re stiff. There’s no give. They bind in places no real man likes to be bound.
It’s a true triumph of marketing that Americans spend about $14 billion on blue jeans each year. If the pants are so durable, how come every year we keep needing to purchase more and more of them?
I suppose we have James Dean to blame for all this. It was him in the 1955 movie “Rebel Without a Cause” that started the transformation that led jeans from jeans being a perfectly utilitarian article of clothing to items of gaudy fashion that retail for hundreds of dollars.
There should be some sort of study about how the rise of the blue jean has coincided with the decline of the men who wear them.
I’d do it myself, but I need to rush out to the department store and buy a fourth pair of bar jeans before lunch.
The baseball playoffs start today and that means plenty of bar time. I don’t want risk having to set my soft ass down on stool 7 without the manly protection of a really tough garment that’s up to the task.