Sunday, October 14, 2018

The last jeans I'll ever buy

I am oblivious to fashion trends. It’s not that I don’t care how I look. It’s just that I don’t care enough to make an effort to stay abreast of what’s in and out of style. 

If I’m going to a wedding or funeral, I look online to see which of my two suits I should choose  — the one with the wide lapels or the one with the narrow lapels. Same with ties. I have to look it up to find out which of my two neckties I should wear.

Ninety-nine percent of the time I wear shorts, a t-shirt and sandals. My closet contains only a few pairs of long pants and all of those, with the exception of a pair of jeans, are tropical weight khakis.

This week my wife and I are flying to Iceland, a jeans and flannel shirt kinda country where everyone looks like they just came back from hiking a glacier, climbing a volcano or harpooning whales. "You’re going to need new jeans,” my wife said. “Yours look ridiculous.”

She’s right. I bought them in 1997 in South Africa. The label on the backside says Woolworth’s — a department store there, not the dime store you may remember.  Like me, they are showing their age — frayed bottoms, some mysterious stains, a missing belt loop.  And they don’t fit any more. Since I bought them I have lost my ass twice — once in the stock market crash and again sometime over the last ten years. The flesh on my back side has for some inexplicable reason disappeared so where-ass I used to fill the jeans out, I no longer do. There’s lots of extra fabric that sags over the area where my butt used to be.

So yesterday I went to the outlet mall to buy a new pair. I figured it would take, at most, 10 minutes because, unlike clothes that go in and out of style, jeans are jeans, right?


My first stop was at H&M. I read somewhere that H&M, a Swedish chain, is a good place to buy jeans. And it is, provided you're a guy with a waist the size of my miniature dachshund’s. There were racks and racks of jeans, with signs designating various styles — Skinny, Super Skinny, Slim, and my favorite, Skinny Carrot. The men browsing those racks were all a) young enough to be my grandsons and b) disturbingly emaciated. I was in and out of that store in two minutes flat. 

I went to Eddie Bauer. I wear size 36 jeans so I tried on a pair that size. Two of those people from “My 600 Pound Life” could have easily fit into them, with room left over for Michael Moore. I tried on a size 34. That pair could have accommodated two Moores. Even the 32s,  a size I haven’t worn since my twenties, were way, way too big. I suppose I could have continued to try successively smaller sizes until I found a pair that actually touched my hips but I’d lost faith in Eddie Bauer jeans so I left.

The Nautica store featured jeans that, like H&M's, are made for men with eating disorders. 

The jeans at the Bloomingdales outlet contained more holes than denim. Even I know that’s the style but I don’t get it. Totally impractical for someone traveling to the Arctic in late October. 

I stopped at Lucky. The designations there were as bizarre as H&M's — Skinny, Slim, Drainpipe and Athletic Slim, “for athletic slim men or those who want to be.” I want to be athletic and slim but don’t want to pay $79 for a pair of jeans I’ll wear for a week then consign to the back of a guest room closet. It’s a sure bet none would have fit anyway.

Brooks Brothers had nothing in my size. 

Leaving that store, I rounded a corner and was relieved to see a Levi’s shop. I had never noticed it or I would have gone there in the first place.

Last time I bought Levi's, there were, if I remember correctly, two styles — 501s with a button fly and 505s with a zippered fly. I read years ago that west coast men prefer button jeans. The rest of the country prefers zippers.

Levi's no longer has two basic styles.  The selection was overwhelming. In addition to the 501s and 505s, there are now (I looked ‘em up when I got home) 502s (Regular Taper Fit), 510s (Skinny Fit), 511s (Slim Fit), 512s (Slim Taper Straight), 513s (Slim Straight), 514s (Straight Fit), 517s (Boot Cut), 519s (Extreme Skinny), 527s (Slim Boot Cut), 541s (Athletic Fit), 545s (Athletic Fit Utility), 550s (Relaxed Fit), 559s (Relaxed Straight), 560s (Comfort Fit as opposed to Discomfort Fit) and 569s (Loose Straight, not for Loose Gays or Loose Transgenders). 

A clerk asked if I needed help. “Yes,” I said. “What do you have for someone my age that will make me look virile, hip and outdoorsy while disguising the fact that my butt is missing?”

She pulled a half dozen pair off the shelves and handed them to me. Over the next hour I tried on — I kid you not — 14 pairs. Not only did they all fit differently, all of the 36 jeans except the 501s were way too big. Even many of the 34s were too big. When I asked why, the clerk explained that most jeans these days are made with denim that stretches. That’s why the jeans at Eddie Bauer and, to a lesser extent, at Levi’s, didn’t fit like the traditional stiff jeans I was accustomed to.

I finally found a pair of 505s — the same style I wore back in college — but softer, made with stretch material, that looked halfway decent. Sized 34/30, they’re a bit too big in the waist and about a half inch too short in the leg but I was, at that point, desperate to get the hell out of there.

“Do you want give me your email so I can send you a coupon for 20 percent off your next purchase?” the cashier asked.

“God no,” I replied. “These are the last jeans I’m ever going to buy.” 

And that’s the truth.