Who Rips Your Jeans?
At my gym there’s a stack of magazines to keep us distracted as we pedal away on the stationary bikes. Aside from “Golf Digest” most are women’s and fashion magazines or ones that cover trashy celebrity gossip. Some days I find one with a story interesting enough to keep me from boredom for my 20-minute spin. Other days I find a magazine that leads me into a world that is truly bizarre. On one of those days a magazine featured page after page of women in jeans that were torn and shredded in multiple ways. And the most remarkable part -- the little caption next to the photograph with a price, usually somewhere between three and four hundred dollars. No lie.
At some level I “get” fashion. Enough at least to know that it is not about being attractive and often about being bold enough to wear something quite unattractive but “in style” -- at least for a minute until it’s not in style anymore and then it is embarrassingly passé or a case of fashion victimhood.
I’m only mildly annoyed by this shredding trend, but I started wondering about the people who have to rip those jeans. Are there little shops in Bangladesh or China where generic jeans are delivered to workers who tear them up and then put in whatever “designer” label is in the order for that day?
I wondered if the designers send a pattern of how they want the jeans torn up. Does the order from one maker read “Small holes below the pockets in back, large holes on both knees, some shredding at the hem?” Does another order read, “Six holes placed randomly from front to back, except near the bottom of the right leg?” Is that how the pattern is created? Or are the directions simply, “Have at it?”
Above all I wonder about what these people must be thinking as they do this job. As they earn their meager wage, do they try to figure out what the customers could possibly be thinking? Are they amused, resentful or simply wishing that they could own a pair of those jeans -- still intact? Do they think, “What kind of people hire others to wear out their clothes for them? “Do they have people who chew their food for them?”
There is definitely an appeal to a well-worn pair of jeans. For decades people have found ways to accomplish this. Multiple washings, even a few gentle passes over with the car, but most often by simply wearing them.
As with so many things, context creates meaning. In most cities one can see a fashion “conscious” young woman parading proudly in her expensive shredded jeans, while around the corner there is a panhandler wearing a similar pair. And on another corner might be a homeless person in a pair with no holes at all. Maybe he needs them intact to stay warm or maybe he just has too much pride to wear torn-up jeans.