Every now and then, I come across items in the news that make me worry about the future of our country.
Here’s one such item: CNNMoney reports that Americans are paying hundreds of dollars for dirty jeans.
According to Nordstrom, a nutty retailer that sells such jeans, they “embody rugged, Americana workwear that’s seen some hard-working action with a crackled, caked-on muddy coating that shows you’re not afraid to get down and dirty.”
They sell for 425 bucks a pair.
And, believe it or not, the distressed-jeans phenomenon has been around for a while.
“The filthy fashion statement isn’t actually new,” reports CNNMoney. “The jeans have been for sale at Nordstrom as well as at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue for quite some time.”
This causes my father to rise up in me as I say, “What the ... .”
Even in Pittsburgh, where no small number of people prefer to distress their own jeans by working hard in their blue-collar jobs, distressed jeans sell well.
I talked with the owner of an upscale jeans store who offered me some puzzling insights into this nutty fashion. She told me jeans with holes in them aren’t as popular as the ones with paint splattered all over them.
“Jeans splattered with paint?” I said.
“Yes, they’re all the rage,” she said.
“But they have paint on them!”
“Yes! Our dirt-washed jeans are good sellers. They have pebbles and clumps of clay in the pockets!”
“But of course.”
She told me her dirt-washed jeans are almost as popular as her grease-smeared jeans. The manufacturers actually smear grease all over the jeans, so that people who buy them can be as fashionable as the guy in the pit at the Jiffy Lube.
I asked the jeans-shop owner to help me understand why people are buying such products. She said that manufacturers are always trying to be hip. When something hits ---- when the trendy crowd just has to have it ---- the manufacturers can charge huge markups.
Nordstrom’s dirty jeans have struck such a chord, according to CNNMoney.
“The mud has a shiny sheen to it, as if the jeans were dragged down a filthy hill and left in a wet ditch,” says the report. And “the listing on Nordstrom’s website caught the internet’s attention ... and the inevitable Twitter firestorm ensued.”
Some of the tweets were critical of the jeans, but there is no denying that some people are parting with a lot of money to buy them.
Why are they spending so much money for items that sensible Americans used to donate to Goodwill or toss in the garbage?
Let me take a stab at it.
As Americans work exhausting hours in gray cubicles, or doing bland service work ---- as fewer Americans experience any sense of craftsmanship and don’t know the first thing about working with their hands ---- they long for anything authentic.
Even if it’s totally fake.
And as Americans get increasingly lazy and sedentary, they have to pay other people to break in their clothing.
But, you may be thinking, why pay more than 400 bucks for dirty jeans if the dirt is just going to wash away when the jeans are laundered?
Because, according to CNNMoney, the dirt isn’t real. The company that makes the jeans innovated some kind of chemical dirt cocktail that does not wash out.
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, our country is in such a sorry state that even our dirt is fake.
And now you know why I worry about the future of our country.
Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Send comments to Tom at Tom@TomPurcell.com.