I remember my first pair of blue jeans because I was sent home for wearing them. No, I wasn’t a little rebellious first grade miscreant expressing antisocial behavior. I was sent home because the blue jeans had metal rivets at the top corners of the back pockets. The school administration banned the riveted back pockets because they could scratch the varnished school desk seats. I don’t remember what I wore when I returned to class, probably a pair of non-denim dungarees.
The description of this childhood scenario certainly dates it to the late 1950s–1959, to be exact. It was a time when denim was not as ubiquitous in schools as now. Trousers constructed of various materials like twill, khaki, or gabardine outfitted young boys of the day. Blue denim jeans were sometimes worn, but not by the majority.
For many years, my parents dressed me in denim bib overalls. There was a pair of grey-striped “Key” brand and a solid blue pair made by some other company. I probably outgrew them by my third-grade year. Mom didn’t buy any more overalls for me after then because I adamantly refused to wear overalls to school under any circumstances.
I did not own a single pair of jeans between the ages of eight and 14. Then, high school happened. “Lee” and “Levis” became my go-to brands of blue denim jeans. They were not everyday wear, because twill and gabardine still felt more comfortable then. However, I always wore blue jeans on “casual Fridays” at school. It was during college years that blue jeans became the default slacks.
There was one pair of non-standard jeans I liked to wear as a college sophomore. They were constructed of lightweight, dark blue denim. The trousers featured patch-style front pockets and radically wide bell-bottom legs. I bought them because they were similar to a pair worn by George Harrison. During nippy autumn weather, I liked to wear a dark blue twill jacket with patch pockets to accompany the pants.
On the other hand, jeans were reserved for attending school and for off-time. My part-time supermarket job forbade blue jeans as work attire. Black or navy blue gabardine or twill slacks, a dress shirt, and a necktie were mandatory. We were provided with white aprons to protect our clothing.
After graduation, my employers’ dress codes did not include denim jeans. The security guard company provided black dress slacks, uniform shirts, and a police-style cap to wear each day. When employed at Hewlett Packard, dress casual was the norm, again with the men wearing non-denim trousers. Because I worked in maintenance and repair, the company required the issued uniform which consisted of a heavy-weight button-down short sleeved shirt, and navy blue gabardine slacks.
Workday attire shifted away from uniforms back to conventional wear when I began working in radio. Because we often made public appearances, we were discouraged from wearing blue jeans. Sundays and stormy weather days were jeans-OK times.
As the years passed by, blue jeans became acceptable work attire, as long as they were neat, clean, and undistressed. Employees were still required to wear a dressy button-down or polo-style pullover shirt whenever we weren’t dressed in a station issued polo or cotton tee. I usually altered between khakis, gabardine, and blue denim each week. Sometimes I wore a blue denim jacket purchased in 1999.
Now, with retirement, denim blue jeans are the mainstays of my wardrobe. After awhile, wearing jeans every day just seems boring. Some days, I like to dress up just for variety’s sake. A pair of dress slacks, a white shirt with a tie, and a sports jacket fill that need.
Dressing to the nines to go grocery shopping is a fun, rebellious act. Because jeans-wearing is the norm today, wearing non-denim slacks is a way of behaving outside of the box. When it’s time to express my individuality, a business suit fits the bill. The other 90-percent of the year, I’ll don a pair of blue jeans.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes musician Ian Anderson. “Just once, I would like to persuade the audience not to wear any article of blue denim. If only they could see themselves in a pair of brown corduroys like mine instead of this awful, boring blue denim.”