Atmosphere

The Denim Wars

April 2010

The Case for Cheap Jeans

 

There is something that feels fundamentally wrong to me about dropping $100-plus for a pair of jeans. Blue jeans: The humble work pants constructed of denim and copper rivets, and conceived, originally, as rugged trousers for the hard men who hoped to find their fortune in the foothills of California's Sierra Nevada mountains. They are casual and, by definition, modest, and yet my friends and colleagues will pay $90, $125—$250!—for a single pair of jeans. Indeed, one would have to have struck gold to afford a new pair of pants at these prices.

I have five pairs of jeans in my closet that I wear regularly, and none of them cost more than $55. I got them all at the Gap because they're readily available, they fit me, and I don't have to shortchange my sons' 529 accounts for a new pair of pants. Two of the pairs I wear regularly are more than six years old, which is to say: These jeans may be (relatively) inexpensive, but they're well-constructed and last. They deflect attention rather than attract it; they are a blank canvas upon which I can add a T-shirt or a sport coat and a tie, or anything in between. Sure, you can do that with expensive jeans, too—but why would you?—Geoff Van Dyke

The Case for Paying More

I'm never going to buy another pair of cheap, big-box-store jeans—ever. Here's the thing: I have a short body, too-long legs, and curves. My body type is never, ever, going to become the prototype for mass-marketed dungarees. And so, about 10 years ago, I bought my first pair of expensive jeans: a $125 Seven For All Mankind pair at a sample sale.

I should have felt guilty—my monthly student loan payments cost that much—but I didn't. After all, in the workplace, jeans had become the new suit. And these jeans were sublime; the cut complemented my body, the material was top-notch (not too thin like cheaper jeans), and the design had just enough give in all the right places. I begin amassing jeans that fit me and would last, and stopped obsessing about the price. I wanted value and quality, and jeans, like a set of pearls or a little black dress, are now a wardrobe staple.

I still have that first pair of Seven jeans—yes, expensive jeans can last, too—but now I wear them around the house and in the garden. Do I feel guilty sometimes about wearing fancy

duds in the dirt? Not at all, because I know they make me look damn good.—Natasha Gardner