My Dad taught me about Levis. Being from Liverpool in the 50’s and 60’s jeans apparently were important. He and his brothers would steal Levis from the ships importing them to England and then redistribute the wealth. They wore them for work, never to go out. They were utilitarian, not decorative. The kids they sold them to may have felt differently.
These were the shrink to fit variety, the most comfortable jeans in the world, cotton that fits to your form, not the pre-shrunk acid washed bleached stuff we know today. These were the pants of Guthrie and Dylan, Brando and Dean, the work wear of railway men and miners, prisoners and farmers. Made from raw cotton and riveted for strength.
There is the relentless customs/traditions/myths and rituals of shrinking the jeans. My Dad took me through all this, sitting in the bath, towel drying and then wear them wet until they dry and don’t wash too often if ever. The inevitable roll of cotton at the end of your leg, some would go with a broad roll, my dad insisted that your fold should no the more than an inch. He would sit there with his rolled up cigarette, his D.A. haircut and white t-shirt, skinny and lean and go through this so seriously, set by step.
I have never bought any other jeans than shrink to fit Levis. It’s a connection to my Dad in some strange way. Now I am not saying I do all that sitting in the bath tub shit still but some of the other stuff I still go along with. My wife thinks I am crazy not washing my jeans too much and never letting them near the drier and “why do you roll them up when you could buy them pre-shrunk to fit?”
I say all this because it is my Dads birthday. For 25 years now I have lived on a different continent from him. Sometimes things fade away, memories roll into each other and become confused, muddled forgotten. There is however that serious day when my dad sat me down and explained how to make your jeans fit. That lived on with me, especially as I work my way through difficulties with my own sons. They don’t wear Levi’s maybe that is the problem at it’s core.
Out of interest, as I walked down the street the other day I was accosted by this thing called a vintage jean shop. The world has surely lost its head, what normally would have been the rack in Goodwill is now a boutique stop for hipsters looking for their hip hugging vintage jeans. Of course two doors down is the used record store that caters to aging rockers looking for a clean copy of some obscure relic of the vinyl age…
All in all, it is all as it should be and I still wear my jeans too baggy according to my wife, however what does she really know about the secrets of raw cotton. Somewhere in my dads closet is a pair of Levis that must be 40 years old, they will never fit me or him again, they may however fetch some cash at that hipster store, that however may be a step too far, come the day I may frame them as art, a relic to a fading practice and an afternoon with an old cast iron bathtub in the back yard and the indigo dye staining my skin as I shrank my first pair of Levis. The other kids at school bought their jeans pre-shrunk, I am not sure we bought ours but we had to work to make them fit, after all my uncle Jimmy still worked on the docks.
6 thoughts on “the wrong jeans…”
Loved this post Neil. Definitely frame them.
Agreed and agreed. This made me think of pictures I’ve seen of James Dean — did he roll his jeans no more than an inch?
No he had a wide fold going on.
I like the way you work in family history to the account, Neil. Before jeans all the kids looked like mini versions of their old folks …
Excellent! A pleasure to read.