I pulled an old, raggedy pair of jeans out of the closet the other day and had to figure out: Should I throw these away or try to sell them on e-Bay for $89?
They have holes in a couple of places on the leg, a spot in back that probably should have a patch and they're unraveling around the cuffs. In other words, they look exactly like the jeans I see advertised in catalogues for the kind of money a guy used to spend on a nice suit.
Think I'm kidding?
I have before me Exhibit A in the case for Ridiculous Fashions. It is the fall/winter 2005 catalogue for International Male.
At this point, you're probably wondering what a guy like me - an ink-stained journalistic wretch who wouldn't know fashion if it introduced itself at a chamber of commerce mixer - is doing with an International Male catalogue.
For crying out loud, it has a guy on the cover wearing a cummerbund. Not only did I have to look up the spelling, the last time I saw a cummerbund was, I believe, my high school prom. That was also the last time I saw a Nehru jacket on anybody other than Nehru.
The International Male catalogue has a cover price of $2, but believe me I didn't buy it. It came in the mail, one of approximately 1,900 catalogues that have arrived ever since I accidentally ordered something from a business that then sold my name and address to every other catalogue business in the free world. (And Italy).
Anyway, the International Male catalogue has a lot of groovy stuff in it, such as the elegant evening fur ($239) and the sparkling bow tie ($29) and a puffy pirate shirt ($69) just like the one on that Seinfeld episode. In the catalogue they call it a "poet's shirt."
My wife's favorite is the sparkling shirt, "A holiday must-have for lighting up the cocktail party circuit. Woven for a sequined effect." It comes in red, silver and black.
The red sequined number is especially, um, stylish. It should come with a warning: "Do not wear to Raiders games." Even the black and silver ones.
As I was saying, there is all this hip stuff (Ritz satin shirt and tie combo, $29) until you get to Page 16.
At that point, flipping through the catalogue, you say "Oh, too bad they messed up. That poor model still has on his holey jeans he wore from home."
Then you realize International Male would like you to pay $89 for a pair of jeans that has holes, a patch and raggedy cuffs. Just like the jeans I'm considering throwing out.
"Distressed finish with a subtle dirty wash," reads the description. "Large patch detail on one leg."
Oh, that's what it is - a large patch detail. It also says they're imported. Yeah, from somebody's dirty-clothes hamper, possibly in Guatemala.
And what the heck is a "dirty wash"? They're recycling the water?
Of course, it's not just International Male that's trying to sell you dirty, already worn-out jeans. Pretty much any store you walk into these days has a rack of dirty, worn-out jeans.
I was thinking of taking my dirty, worn-out jeans down to a store and hanging them on a rack that says, "Free. Just wash them and bring them back to me."
It might work.
Actually, I don't think dirty, worn-out jeans at prices higher than a new, clean pair of jeans is a sign of fashion at all. I think this is part of the service industry, the future of the economy as it has been predicted for decades now.
See, I put a lot of effort into wearing out my jeans and getting them dirty. I mowed the lawn in them. I cleaned out the garage. I wore them every day for a week when my wife was gone and I didn't get around to doing laundry.
That hole in the leg was from wrestling with the dog, and the thin places on the butt are from squirming while I watched the Cardinals in the baseball playoffs. Those jeans wore me out.
But, thanks to the modern service industry, now somebody is wearing out jeans for me. I don't have to go to the trouble of living in them. I don't even have to go to the trouble of getting them dirty, because they already look dirty even when they're clean.
Isn't modern couture science wonderful?
At one time, they called the clothing industry the rag trade. Now, for $89 a pair you can order rags out of a fashion catalogue and wear them to church, I guess. (Because they're holey. It's an old joke.)
Have they come up with a name for these yet? I suggest something along the lines of Classic Jeans, or Heritage Jeans or perhaps Historic Jeans. You know, I have jeans older than some of the reporters who work at the Appeal.
They must be worth a fortune.
Oh, in case you were wondering, on Page 62 of the International Male catalogue may be found - I kid you not - a Nehru jacket ($139). I'm pretty sure the guy wearing it isn't Nehru, and I don't think he's headed for the prom.
n Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1221.