I'm sitting here in my new jeans, in pain, and I'm trying to rationalize the long-term ownership benefits of these versus the short term discomfort I feel. Today, by the way, is their maiden voyage. It's the first day of wearing them to work. They look good, my wife tells me. Better than any jeans I've ever owned. And I really want to like them, not just because they're grossly expensive, but because of what they could be. Not because of what they are now. As I said, I've been pretty uncomfortable all day.
Here's the story. I've been looking for some jeans that will last the rest of my lifetime. Since working on Levi's I fell in love with the idea that (some) jeans get better the more the you wear them. And I say some because not all jeans are created equal.
So I went down to Jean Shop on W. 14th St in the Meatpacking District and talked to the two appropriately exotic women working in the store. The place smells of leather and denim like a jeans store should. They can see I know a little bit about jeans and am looking for the good stuff. They show me the three cuts (styles) for men and a couple of finishes - dark, washed, and raw.
A bit of background. Denim has this quality of conforming to the wearers body. And over time, they take on the shape of your body. The bend in the back of the knee, the crotch, the outline of your hips, the wear patch in the seat.
To get jeans to take on your imprint you have to buy raw denim. The kind of raw denim that's sold stiff as a cardboard box. It also has to be high quality, ring spun, heavyweight, selvedge denim. That's the good stuff. These days the best denim is manufactured in Japan where there's an intense connoiseurship around jeans. That's what I go for. Like I said, I want these to last me the rest of my life.
One of the sales people gives me the thumbs up. "Yes, raw is the best." She slyly says "do you want the regular weight or the heavyweight." I, of course know to go for the heavyweight. I've come this far, I'm not backing down now.
I ask for a size 36 - my waist size. I try them on and come out of the dressing room, which is just a bunch of scrap denim hung from a steel rod (appropriately minimalist). Both sales ladies (women?) are involved now. "Too big" they say. I think they feel pretty good actually and they're going to shrink right?" No. They tell me. These don't shrink. They give and conform. You want them tighter. So one of the ladies brings me a 34. I try it on. They both agree. "Too loose. You need tighter."
Now I'm a bit uncomfortable. My frame of reference is Levi's shrink to fit from when I was a kid. You bought them two sizes too big and washed them a couple of times so they'd shrink down to your size. "That's not how these work. You want them really tight at the beginning because they'll give over time and your don't want them falling off your hips after a while." Well, of course I don't want that, so I reluctantly ask for the next size. "I'll bring you a 33" one of them says. This is the third pair and they're getting progressively smaller and more difficult to get on. "Too big still." They say. "A 32 will be perfect for you." So she brings them out and I try one more time.
I can barely get them on and it takes me a couple of tries to get the fly buttoned. I come out and wait for judgment. "Perfect. 32 is your size, see" they say. "Are you sure. These are extremely tight?" I say. "Yes, you don't want them any bigger." "If you can fit a finger into the waist, they're too big." My wife concurs. "You should get those", she says. So I do. I pay for them and they leave me with the following instructions on my way out the door: "Wear for eight months before washing. And don't get them wet. Then cold rinse them once and come back to the store and we'll take a look."
The story started by me explaining that I wanted perfect jeans, but with perfection come sacrifices. Here I am at work wearing my new jeans for the first time. I think they still look pretty good, but I'm in no way enjoying wearing them.
For starters, they're two sizes too small. They're really tight and stiff. They don't bend. Which means I don't bend. I can't sit down for too long because I think they're cutting off the circulation to my legs. They feel like wearing a cardboard box.
But the stiffness does seem to make me stand up taller. An unintended side effect I'm sure, but still good for proper posture I guess.
I can't get change in the fifth pocket. I can barely get one hand in one of the pockets, much less both of them at the same time. When I cross my legs the cardboard-like creases that fold across the crotch are almost unbearable. I don't do that often. The fabric slides across the the surface of itself when crossing my legs. It literally sounds like rubbing two pieces of paper together.
I haven't received any compliments on them yet, but I'm not discouraged. I'm in this relationship for the long haul. Suffering must have some benefit eventually, right?