I remember this quite vividly. There was no such thing as ‘engineered denim’ in the early 90’s when I was a teenager. Yet in the pursuit of being cool, I had to conjure up my own version of ‘engineering’. I got my worn in look by way of scraping my ass up and down the cement footpath out the front of my house (I lived on a main road by the way). Later my mother told me that it would have been a hell of a lot easier to take off the said pair of jeans and rub them against a rough stone. Thanks for the advice mum, but too late. If only my nickname ‘ass scraper’ wore out as fast as my jeans did…
Then something revolutionary happened in the mid nineties (that saved my ass, so to speak). Levis decided that we didn’t have to wait years and years to wear in our favourite pair of jeans, ’cause America’s convicted criminals could do all the hard work for us! Yep, all those second hand Levis being sold in boutiques actually came from America’s prisons. Imagine the satisfaction for the prisoner, knowing that some good came out of their existence? As long as they served their full sentence, of course (jeans just didn’t achieve an optimum level of worn in-ness if prisoners got out early on parole). So my pre-worn Levis alla ‘break and enterer’ became the ‘hottest’ thing in my wardrobe (just kidding, I paid for them). Really, how could I have been so narrow minded as to think crime didn’t pay?
Moving into the new millennium, jean manufactures suddenly realised that it was wrong to allow such an obvious exploitation of America’s prisoners. Especially when the Chinese could do it for a whole lot less, and quicker too! Engineered denim was born. All of sudden, we didn’t have to wait years for our jeans to hit the perfect level of worn in-ness, because we could buy a brand new pair of ‘pseudo old’ that looked like, well, a bad pair of new jeans. Like anything in its infancy, there is always something NQR (Not Quite Right) about it. Kinda like when CGI special effects first started to appear in film. Much to the rile of everyone around me, I just couldn’t help the comment “Aw that looks so fake!” every time a dinosaur ripped apart a person, or when a ship collided with an iceberg in the middle of the Antarctic. It was just a natural reaction to something that looked completely unnatural when trying to appear natural (also my natural reaction when I see a man with hair plugs, or a woman with a bad boob job. But that’s another blog entry all together). And while I didn’t go around pointing at people wearing badly engineered jeans on the street (only because I too was a serious offender), I did wonder when the edges of pockets were going to be grinded evenly, rather then looking like they had been attacked by cat claws.
Today however, while we are finally perfecting pocket grinding, crotch whisker marks, and thigh and ass sand blasting, isn’t this all merely an improvement on the fake worn-in look? I mean, I have a pair of jeans that I bought almost four years ago in dark indigo denim with only a basic enzyme wash. Over the years of wearing, there has not been even the slightest beginnings of fraying along any pocket; the whisker mark around the crotch goes straight across the thigh, (not splayed out in all kinds of unsightly directions drawing attention to my bathing suit area); and my ass does not look likes it’s been dragged over coloured sand! Perhaps we have forgotten what a real pair of worn in jeans looks like?
In saying this, I’m certainly not against engineered denim. It’s interesting and it’s getting better. And while the ‘new pseudo old’ look has now become my daily bread, the ‘engineered’ price tag that comes with the jeans is nauseating. ‘Authentic’ looking old jeans will set you back around $350 (AUD) these days. Common! For me to even want to pay that kind of money, I’m hoping some Chinese worker is scraping their ass up and down the factory room floor for me.