Long gone are the days of my teens, where you went to the Miller's Outpost and bought a few pairs of Levi's, wore them until they fell apart and then checked to see if you'd grown an inch since you bought the last pair.
(by the way, I am typing this without the benefit of a "t". It fell off of my laptop Friday night as I was writing 200 words about the Bellarmine-Riordan football game. I just tried to glue it back on but it didn't work. Now my keyboard looks like it's missing a tooth. No, just a "t.")
(as a further digression, Friday was the first time I had to "file" my story immediately after the game. So if you were in the parking lot at San Jose City College at around 10 p.m. and saw some guy walking around in the dark holding a laptop in front of him, that was me, looking for a random wireless connection.)
The Levi's became a necessity in 7th grade, when the Garanimals and Toughskins of grammar school overnight became so uncool as to brand you a geek no matter what your other qualities. The switch to Levi's -- requiring the accompanying switch from Sears to Miller's Outpost -- was enough of a sea change, but the addition of "designer" jeans shook up my entire adolescent world.
First, Roger A. Hunt, whose access to older sisters gave him a fashion and hipness leg-up on everyone else, introduced Brittania jeans to our 9th grade class. Combined with his cool second-generation, putty-colored Topsiders, they gave him a style cache I think he may not have enjoyed since, though he did have a short run of wearing really ground-breaking shoes right after college. I tried to follow, only to have Jim Fregosi, Jr. make fun of my shoes -- the really unique black desert boots I'd bought in Australia -- at a party.
(The effort required to include the letter "t" is so great that I am considering eliminating it entirely from my online world.)
I tried my best to keep up, but my mother resisted, and she had access to the money. After much coercing, she agreed to get me the A Smile drawstring pants that were sweeping Santiago Junior High School, but not the Brittanias. They cost $28.
Then, a surprise: I pulled a few strings and arrived for the first, terrifying day of 10th grade (and high school) with a pair of Calvin Kleins. The effect was immediate. Sophomore cheerleaders Julie Megar and Kris Erickson battled to be my lab partner in Biology. Whether it was the Calvins or my reputation as a nerd is not important. What is important was a month later, when Julie told me that she "really liked my Calvin Kleins."
The Calvins were an anomly. I soon decided that, given my tenuous grip on masculinity, they were too effete. Back to Levi's, 501s, button fly, size 32-36. Or maybe 33-36 (age 28), 34-34 (age 33), and finally, the humiliating oversquare 34-32. There was an unsettling period of coolness in the late 80s when I lived in Seattle, rode a motorcycle, worked in a comedy club and wore gigantic Levis with Doc Martens.
Much later, having returned to a more well-fitting state of fashion anonymity, I switched to GAP jeans, and blissfully wore them, the straight legs hugging my calves and not obscuring my big black shoes, well into my 30s.
And then came the Mom jeans.
We are all products of our time. My dad once told me that men choose their style during their senior year of high school and never change. My style? Kind of a modified Army-Navy. Nice, boring, consistent. And I still think tapered jeans look cool.
Which is not cool. Dad jeans.
Sandra Bullock first hipped me to the scourge that is Mom jeans long before the term became "Saturday Night Live" fodder. "You know," she told me, "those jeans that are tapered and have a high waist? Moms wear them." Their male counterpart, the Dad jeans, are similar. Best worn with a webbed belt. They are the jeans that announce to the world that time has continued to march on but you have decided to stay in the decade in which you are most comfortable.
S. Bullock pointed out the dadness of my existing jeans. It was sobering, to say the least.
Then she told my poor sister, Noodle's Mom, who responded as I would have, and did, by first denying it, then explaining that this is the style where she lives, then a few hours later asking me if I thought she was guilty of sporting the pariah-like Mom jeans, and then suggesting we go shopping, where she replaced the offending denim with some hipper bootcut Sevens, or Citizens for Humanity. Honestly, I can't remember which ones she bought, but she corrected the problem quickly and efficiently.
Then came the controversial attempted forced conversion to boot cut jeans, in which S. Bullock and Carrie Bradshaw escorted the vacationing and complaining vaguely about the state of his wardrobe me to the GAP in downtown Seattle and made me buy three pairs of cutting edge pairs, only to have me learn the following week that no one else in my life was convinced that men of my particular sexual orientation were likely to wear the style of jeans I had just bought.
So they hung, ironically, in the closet, save for a few occasions when I suddenly decided that I liked the idea of them enough to give them a try. I put them on, looked down at my shoes, which were completely obscured by the flared legs of my pants, and then quietly hung them back up in the closet.
Finally, I rebelled. No more bootcut, no matter that hip young rock and rollers were actually buying bootcut women's jeans for the cooler fit. I am not a hip young rock and roller, and in fact during the very short period that I presented myself as such, said category of person wore Levi's, cuffed and looking tough with big old biker boots storming out of the bottoms of them.
I finally found the jeans I liked. GAP 1969, straight leg, with a variety of washes but not the ones that Sandra Bullock claims look "acid-washed." Unfortunately, the last time Ken Dunque gave us the GAP "Friends and Family" discount cards, I bought two pairs that are too large. Incredibly comfortable, and frankly I like the saggy jeans look, but S. Bullock claims they make me look "dumpy."
Pause here to remind you that for all of her charms, Sandra Bullock is not known for her tact. Nor will she sugar coat something to spare your feelings. If your jeans make you look dumpy, and you are standing within view of S. Bullock, you will soon learn the sad truth about your jeans. Or, now that I think of it, any hat you might think to be a stylish alternative to the variety of baseball caps you have worn since second grade.
Certainly, S. Bullock is honest enough to let you know that the brand new skinny-legged "Morrison" jeans the GAP is marketing make you look like "The Big Fig Newton."
But that is not fair. S. Bullock has a special hatred for the new trend of "skinny jeans." She is waging a one-woman campaign to keep people from buying them, in the hopes that the trend will quietly disappear before she has to look at a neo-1980s world of skinny legged jeans worn with equal frequency by people who look good in them and people who do not.
There is a delicate balance to being in your 40s in the 21st century. On the one hand, you want to be seen as someone who's still got some fashion sense, who doesn't look like another adult who left their desire to look good somewhere under a pile of diapers and toys. On the other hand, you don't want to look like a pathetic middle-aged fool trying to look like you're 21, or like it's still 1968, even though Mick Jagger does it and it made him rich.
As for me, I am happy to say that, at 41, despite my secret admiration of skinny jeans and stubborn love for oversized, low-hanging pants, I have achieved jeans equilibrium with my 1969 jeans. I am confident that if Julie Megar were here, she would say the same thing.
If anyone has any suggestions for the restoration of my "t," please don't hesitate to pass them along.