My pal Jorge was fishing for compliments as he gestured towards his lower body. “Have you noticed my sleek new look?”
Indeed, I saw that he was wearing a brand new pair of Levis 501 blue jeans. They were so new, the fabric was very dark blue and appeared to be stiff and uncomfortable.
My friend said that he wanted to try a technique described in a magazine article that I had mentioned, in passing, last year. I don’t remember the exact year or even the magazine the article appeared in, but the instant aging technique was etched into my memory.
The technique allegedly started in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco by guys who wanted to have more butch-looking street wear.
First you need a brand new, off the shelf pair of 501s that fit perfectly. Slip into them, step into your shower and get them sopping wet. While the shower continues to run, soap down the jeans with whatever soap you use for your daily shower, or if you’re brave, use liquid laundry detergent (I don’t recommend this). Scrub the jeans with your hands, or a friend can do this for you. Form fit or mold the jeans closely to your body and legs, then turn off the shower.
Take some fine-grade steel wool (not SOS pads) and buff out areas of the jeans that you want to look worn. This is when your friend’s help is best utilized. When the trousers are “detailed” to your satisfaction, rinse them under hot water and reform them to your body.
Shut off the water and allow the jeans to drip for a few minutes. When the denim feels cool, carefully remove the jeans and hang them up to drip dry. It is important that you don’t wring them out, because doing so will undo the artful body forming that you did earlier.
After you shower to remove the indigo dye from your body, you may wish to finish drip drying the jeans outdoors where any remaining dye won’t stain your bathtub or shower enclosure. It may take a day or two to fully drip-dry the jeans. The end result is a very personal pair of blue jeans.
Jorge grinned and assured me that he didn’t expect me to be his jeans-molding friend. He planned to wear the uncomfortable jeans during his drive back to Denver, then have his spouse help with the tailoring job.
Over coffee, my friend waxed nostalgic about his first pair of blue jeans. Jorge mentioned that he didn’t wear jeans until his high school years. Despite Jorge’s protests, his mother refused to buy jeans for him. She wanted her son to look dressy for school.
I asked, “What about after school and all the rough-housing you did as a boy?”
“After school, I had to wear old corduroy slacks or burmuda shorts. I wore shorts a lot, because I always got “razzed” about my cords.”
“So, how did you finally convince your mom to let you wear blue jeans?”
“I did it on the sly. Jorge laughed, then said, “One day, I decided to break into my piggy bank and buy a pair. There was a thrift store a few blocks from my school. After class, I walked into the store and found a pair that looked brand new and fit like a glove. I brought them home and hid them in my bedroom.”
“So you hid them. Did you plan to actually wear them?”
“Well, I didn’t want to get in trouble, so I planned to just wear them when mom was at work. Then before she’d get home, I’d change back into my cords or burmudas.”
“Did that work out for you?”
“It did for about a week, but one day she came home from work too early. Mom saw me before I noticed her. It’s funny, she didn’t scold me or threaten to punish me.
“We sat down for a quiet mother and son talk. Basically she said that since I would be attending high school the next year, that I should feel free to dress in the same kind of pants that my classmates wear. It was like a light came on in mom’s head that day.”
I mentioned to Jorge that I’ve only seen him not wearing blue jeans or gym shorts one time. That was on his wedding day in his formal tux.
My friend said, “That will probably be the only time for me. I have the kind of job that requires jeans, and I like to wear them all the time at home.”
I gave Jorge a big grin and told him there’s a Neil Diamond tune that he should adopt as his theme song.
“Neil Diamond? Are you kidding?”
“Oh no, the song is called, ‘Forever in Blue Jeans'”.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Yves Saint Laurent. “I have often said that I wish I had invented blue jeans; the most spectacular, the most practical, the most relaxed and nonchalant. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity–all I hope for in my clothes.”