Can we talk about jeans for a little bit?
This past September I bought my first pair of jeans in seven years from Imogene and Willie. I am absolutely thrilled with having jeans with no holes, mends or stains. The first time I zipped them up I yelled "POWER PAWNTZZZ!" and ran through the house as I grinned from ear to ear. These new jeans are made of rigid denim, they take time to soften, wear, and form to the wearers shape and movements. It is now just over 6 months since I purchased them and I have worn these pants at least five out of the seven days a week since they arrived in the mail. I love them. They work. But most of all, they have finally broken in and I can now say, they are MY pants. This got me thinking, the last time I bought new pants was seven years ago, they were from Old Navy. They were $19.99, the Diva slim cut, and within six months of wearing them, I had to fold them up and put them in the back of my closet because I had ripped a hole in the crotch and I couldn't wear them anymore. This got me thinking about our expectations of clothing. For example, one pair of jeans included an entire lifespan of 6 months, while another pair of jeans 6 months would be just the beginning of breaking them in. What should we be expecting and where do our expectations come from?
I have three pairs of jeans in my closet. One is the Old Navy pair that is 8 years old and has been mended over 30 times, the second are my Ralph Lauren jeans that are 10 years old and mended 40 times (see images below) and the final pair are my Imogene and Willie (Also, see below, the pants without holes...) , which are just over 6 months old and no rips, tares ore mends...yet!
These three jeans share a shelf in my closet, they are worn by the same body, cared for by the same person, yet they are different examples of expectations we have from our clothing and expectations we should have as wearers. To put it simply, these pants got me thinking...
My jeans use my time and resources in very different ways, yet they all are able to meet my needs and wants for jeans.
Fast Fashion Pants vs. Investment Pants
$ 20.00 a pair ________________________________________________ $ 200.00 a pair
Designed to last 6-12 months ______________ Designed to last 10 years, possibly life
Mended 36 times _________________________________________________ No Mends
Monthly repair time ______________________________ No mending time needed
Fast Fashion JeansThese jeans were far from an investment financially and the manufacturer didn't invest a lot in materials or production to make the jeans last long either, but to compensate with the lack of investment upfront, I am able to compensate and invest in these pants now, as the owner and wearer of them. These jeans are able to meet my basic need for clothing through my own investment of time, skill and energy. : These jeans fell apart within 6 months of wearing them non-stop. They were the first jeans I ever owned that I didn't need to wear a belt with them because they had a perfect fit. Realizing I would have to buy new pants after they ripped in the crotch I decided I was too lazy to find replacement pants, I already owned pants that fit, why should I have to go out shopping to find a new pair? So, I started mending them. As I continued to wear them, the normal parts of the pants that get the most wear and tear needed mending, like the knees, the crotch and normal stress rips. Eventually, these rips and tares started happening on places that I didn't think of as places receiving wear, like the front or back of the thighs, behind the knees or even the side seams. I started to notice and think about the ways in which I act with the world that cause such wear and tare on parts of my jeans that I don't really think about. As the accumulation of years and mends have added up for this one pair of jeans I now spend an hour or two every month adding more mends or repairing old mends that need refreshing.
Investment Pants: My Imogene and Willie pants are the most I have ever spent on jeans, they were $200.00. These pants are not only an investment financially but also an investment in terms of quality of production and quality of materials. Imogene and Willie jeans are known to last year, after year, after year, only getting better with age. Some people have easily owned their jeans for over ten years with minor need for repair and mends. These pants show the trade-off of owning quality/expensive jeans over fast fashion jeans. I had to save money upfront to make the purchase of these pants possible. I also felt these pants were a bit of a risk for me, once I decided to buy them I knew I would be wearing them for at least ten years and part of me was worried I wouldn't like them, that they wouldn't work for my life or who knows what, but I was worried that financially they wouldn't pay off. In terms of monthly time dedicated to these pants, it is basically zero. All of the time that has been invested in these pants happened before I bought them, saving up money to make the purchase possible without hurting my checking account. By owning these pants for six months it comes out to a little over a dollar a day for wearing them. In hindsight, these pants were 100% worth it for quality, price, and for how I look in them ;)
These two pants show a different investment of time and money. Both work for my lifestyle, my personal style and they meet my need for jeans.
Now, there is one additional note that I find is important. My two pairs of jeans that live out the rip, mend and repeat cycle, are two of my most loved garments in my wardrobe. I am extremely attached to these pants and they hold countless memories for me. In comparison my new pair of jeans have fewer memories, this could be because they are new, but it is also because I just wear these jeans and nothing else. I don't spend time looking in the mirror while figuring out a fun new mend to highlight a new skill I learned. I don't spend an evening watching a movie and mending the pants stitch by stitch. I don't reexamine these pants to see if there are old mends that need to be maintained or upgraded. The new jeans, are just jeans, for now, until I add my own stories and mends to them. But I will have to be patient to do that, because these jeans are sturdy as hell!
I find jeans to be one of the coolest parts of our wardrobes. They are the work horses of our closets, and they are classy and comfy. Just as we dedicate our time to find jeans that match our personalities and daily lifestyles we also need to find jeans that match the way that we think and our values. No matter if you already have jeans in your closet or you are thinking about buying a new pair, challenge yourself to wear, use and love your jeans in a sustainable way!