Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The World of Blue Jeans, a photo essay from Time

Here. The images could, of course, be of most things we wear now.

Anyone else bought a pair of 'raw' (unwashed) jeans lately that you're not supposed to wash for the first six months? I got two pairs in October/November, from G-Star. That was after a month or two of looking for organic cotton and/or hemp alternatives, both in real shops and the net. By alternatives I mean something that I would actually want to wear, not something I would wear just because it was organic cotton and/or hemp (because I wouldn't - I've yet to find a hemp pair that I would love for five years, a criterion for any new garment I buy).

Now, for someone that always abhorred the artificial aging and distressing that dominated denim for so many years, the tide has finally turned in the past two years and there are jeans worth buying again (even if some prices remain in the rude and stupid categories). Denim - at least reasonably good-quality denim, with no nasty stretch in it - will respond to wear better than any other fabric, I think. Knobbly knees, wallet, keys; it all eventually comes through like the Shroud of Turin but without the pilgrims, making your pair explicitly yours. No such luck with the generic 'worn' jeans of yesterday. I didn't buy jeans for four years, which resulted in a range of denim rags hanging off me towards the end of last year.

But back to the no-washing: the six months has something to do with the jeans taking to your shape or not losing their (synthetic/chemical/toxic?) coating, depending on the sales assistant you get. I think it's a bit of a gimmick, a trend, and nothing more, but one with some positive side effects. As we know, many garments make their greatest environmental impact in the hands of the consumers, through laundering and tumble-drying. (Though Fletcher provides some great insights about this in her book; some were new to me.) One friend lasted beyond the six months, despite weekly wear of the jeans, and I've now made it to 4+ months. The secret to odourless denim? The freezer. I aired and aired the jeans, religiously, but there were a few hot weeks in November and airing in the end did little. You whack the jeans in the freezer for 24 hours, however... Perfect! 24 hours seems to be enough to kill the bacteria that live off your sweat, dead skin cells, body lotion, etc. Now, this isn't without problems, of course - freezers consume considerable energy. But, I think if you have one in operation already, a pair of jeans doesn't take up much space or extra energy to freeze, though I'd love to see someone investigate this.

In the end, though, because of the sweat, dead skin cells and body lotion residue I am looking forward to washing the jeans soon. One more month, maybe two... And to take your mind off my dead skin cells, here are some images from Eco Chic, a show in Jakarta, Indonesia.

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