Wednesday, December 02, 2015

In our jeans

My sisters and I, looking like utterly awesome
1980s era ladies with our giant hair. Not
shown: our perfectly ripped jeans.
The 1980s were a spectacular time to be a teenager, if you ask me. I don't know if every generation feels like this, but it felt like the whole world was there just for us. The music I listened to was fun and loud; the vidoes I watched peppered with guys who wore makeup and teased their bleached hair up—feminized men who were non-threatening even as they sang their suggestive lyrics and extolled the virtues of underage girls. We watched TV shows that were focused on families and togetherness, whether it was a well-off family in a New York brownstone or a paycheck-to-paycheck family in an asphalt shingled Illinois bungalow.

The decade in denim started for me in 6th grade, also known as the year that my mother decided to infuse my school wardrobe with color in the form of a rainbow of corduroy. No jeans for me, instead it was all corduroy, all the time. Thus began the great slacks rebellion.

After that, I only wanted to wear black and jeans—except for a super sweet plum colored corduroy pants-and-vest set that I wore in 84. My mom used to buy our jeans out of the JCPenney catalog, the orange-tagged Levis that advertised their length and width on the back patch—which we girls quickly marked out with our ink pens. Thank goodness these jeans were cheap because with a big family, there wasn't a lot of money for fashion over function. We would get 2 new pairs at the beginning of the school year, and they'd better last. Brand new, these jeans were stiff as cardboard and took months of wearing and washing to get just perfect, which was a badge of honor.
Pale blue, slightly ripped jeans.
Not shown, the friend on my right
and the cigarette on my left.

I liked to personalize my jeans. I hated the flared pant look and in the 80s, tight legged pants were what I was after, so I used my Home Ec skills from 7th grade to sew the legs of my jeans tighter. The skinny jeans of today have nothing on my peg-legged Levis, let me tell you. They weren't tight enough until you had to turn them inside out when you took them off at the end of the day. Which quickly morphed into they weren't tight enough until you had to use a pliers to pull up the zipper as you lay on your bed to put them on.

Because nerve damage is a small price to pay for fashion, right?

My favorite jeans that I wore as often as I could had both knees blown clear out. Even better than a perfect fit in my eyes was the perfect rip; not too big, unintentionally frayed like they get from years of wear. Bonus points for the seam around the bottom of the leg to be worn and frayed as well. My parents, of course, hated these pants. I got a lot of "Why do you want to dress in rags like that?" and "We can afford pants! Why do you wear holy pants!?" My parents just didn't understand that I worked hard to get my jeans to look this way. Silly parents.

Jeans got more complicated as the years went by. I had the Lee baggies that were trendy—the ultimate mom jeans with a high waist and pleated front so we all looked a bit fluffy. Then the colored jeans—I had a pair of soft gray colored jeans with pink pinstripes that I think my sister gave to me. I loved to wear them with a pair of Kmart store brand pink hightop Chuck Taylor knockoffs and I think a pink sweatshirt layered with a knockoff Izod shirt—collar popped, of course.

As we got older, the jeans got more expensive. Guess and Z Cavaricci, and I'm sure there were others. Labels were a big deal—especially when you couldn't afford to buy them. I had Palmetto's, with their Guess-like patch on the back pocket, and finally finally got a pair of Guess jeans and wore them completely out. And then my fashion choices got really questionable—from jeans with rips in the butt to postage-stamp sized jean skirts, I'm sure there were a few years my parents longed for the days when it was just a little hole in the knee we argued about.

My kid has great taste in fashion.
Now that my daughter is entering her teenage years, things are a little different. It seemed safer back then somehow, but I guess it's just perspective. She's got an entire world of music at her fingertips and doesn't have to rely on the local radio for new music. And I don't see her stressing fashion just yet. Her big box store jeans are just fine with her, thank you very much, and she has yet to ask me for a specific brand of anything—just maybe a Minecraft or Doctor Who shirt here and there. There are a hundred more options for "cool" clothes than I had as a kid, and she doesn't have to settle for the orange tagged Levis. She does have a pair of Levis—I bought them distressed with pegged legs and had an inner conflict about it, one part of me cheering for the pants of my dreams and the other part booing because she didn't have to work to get them that way.

As she dressed for school this morning, she was wearing those jeans, which now feature blown out knees. I sighed. "Seriously? Don't you have jeans without holes in them?" I quipped, before I realized that I had suddenly morphed into my father.

I get it now. I don't want my kid to go to school looking like a hobo any more than my parents did. But it's up to her now, to decide what's cool. And as long as she keeps it on the modest side (ahem, unlike her mom did for a while there), we're good.

1 comment:

  1. Love the relate-able story. Everyone has their favorite pair of jeans!