COLUMN SEVENTY-TWO, JUNE 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 Al Aronowitz)
THE JEAN POOL
When I was young the only
people who wore jeans were sailors. In fact, they weren't called jeans, they
were known as dungarees. The connection with cows and manure was somehow
implicit. Denims, as a generic term for indigo dyed cotton, would not surface
until the Sixties, the age of the Beatles, the Mersey sound, and glam rock.
In the late Fifties young
men began to struggle into 'drainpipes', no doubt inspired by the likes of James
Dean and Gene Vincent. In Liverpool there was a firm called Flemings, who would
tailor jeans to your personal taste, or even lack of it. Typically, they were so
tight that if there is any truth in the notion that tight pants create sterility
in men then the recent massive decline in Merseyside's population might, in part
at least, be attributed to Flemings' zeal in building a customer base.
By 1969, there were only
three real contenders for the world heavyweight denim belt, Lee, Levi and
Wranglers. Loons were just a bizarre diversion. So, in one generation, we went
from being mobile sandwich boards, advertising the product of a small provincial
firm, to an all-singing, all-dancing advert for the big boys. When Woodstock
became a media event on a par with Kosovo, the watching ad-men got the real
message of the event,
“There's a billion
dollars of advertising space on those butts,” they must have exulted, before
breaking into a heartfelt rendition of Bless your beautiful hides!
And that is how we, the
flower children, became the denim-clad wranglers riding the Trojan horses that
opened the gates of consumer Paradise for Ralph Lauren's Polo players and the
rest of the designer cowboys. If Gandhi were alive today he would probably be
sporting a Nike tick on his loincloth!
When my son insists,
"I like Nike!"
He is simply echoing the
most successful political slogan in American presidential history, " I like
What worked for Eisenhower works against me, so next time you are cursing your kid's expensive clothing choices, just remember, it was probably you who refused to wear anything without a credible label. Okay, it was only an inch or so square, but you know the saying, give somebody an inch...and they'll probably write something expensive on it. ##
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