"C'mon, Mom," I whined, "corduroys just don't look right; neither Hoppy or Roy ever wear corduroys." Going on a shopping trip for new clothes with your mother can be hell when you're only 5 and she gets the last say regarding any purchases. "Can't I please just get some more jeans -- Johnny always wears jeans."
"You can't go to school wearing old torn jeans, and Johnny does not always wear jeans. He goes to Catholic school and they have to wear uniforms; how'd you like to have to do that, young man?"
"Well, can't I have a pair for after school?" I bargained. "You wouldn't want me to get my good school pants all dirty and ripped, would you?" We ended up leaving the store with a compromise of the corduroys and a new pair of jeans, but they weren't the thick Levis like I wanted, but an off-brand of thin denim.
Still, when I strapped on my cap gun and pulled on my low-heeled, round-toed cowboy boots, I looked more like a desperado than if I'd had on a pair of corduroy pants. Saturday mornings, we boys in the neighborhood would huddle close around the little screens of our parents' 1950s TV sets and watch Roy, Hoppy and Gene, and then we'd put on all of our cowboy gear, go out in our yards and refight all of the range wars we'd just witnessed.
After only a few weeks of intense cowboy play, the knees of our jeans would forever be stained a deep, dark green, from all the horses we'd fallen off and the many times we'd been "shot" and crumpled to the ground in our backyards. It wouldn't be too long then, before the first rips would begin to appear in our jean knees and the good ol' Mom would take out her trusty needle an' thread and a pair of old jeans that she'd saved just for the purpose of making patches for our frayed knees.
It would usually only take about a month before we'd have our moms convinced that it was okay to wear jeans to school as long as they weren't all patched, and we could finally discard our "whistle pants" to the back of the closet, only to have them reappear on dressy family outings.
About the time that we'd all finally made it into junior high, our teachers would begin to show us outdated films during that mysterious portion of the school day that was devoted to "health education." It was during these movies that we were supposed to be learning how to act like courteous teenagers and to forever eschew the life of the delinquent.
The pictured bad examples were always some couple which included a guy wearing greasy jeans that barely hung from his hips, a T-shirt with a pack of cigarettes twisted into a sleeve and a long-sideburned haircut that could've only come from a bad Elvis movie; the girl was attired in a micro-mini skirt, a too-tight sweater and about two feet of over-teased hair.
The fact that, as students, we'd forsaken that "look" years previously, didn't seem to sink in with some of the older teachers. They'd stand in front of a classroom full of wheat-jeaned, madras-clad surfer types and lecture on the evils of blue jeans.
It wasn't until 10 years later that another pair of blue jeans crossed my path. I had finally graduated from college and was on a cross-country drive to see some of my old friends in southern California when I spent a night in Berkely. The next morning, as I walked down Telegraph Avenue, I stopped in a shop and bought my first pair of bell-bottom jeans. Those old jeans have now become part of my Halloween "hippie" costume, and they're covered with patches made up of scraps of cloth that I've collected from friends over the years. Every patch tells a story.
Recently, I saw a TV news story devoted to one person who was doing their best to reverse the trade imbalance between Japan and the United States. It seems that the Japanese will pay BIG money for authentic, used and faded blue jeans in small sizes. This enterprising person was traveling the West, literally buying the jeans off little cowboys' butts and shipping them to Japan.
Remember the Goodwill Games a little over a decade ago? One of the most prized souvenirs that the Soviet (remember that word?) athelete or visitor could go home with was American jeans. It didn't matter if they fit or not; they could always be resold for fantastic profits. Blue jeans were recognized as a quality product.
"Aren't you a little old to be adopting the 'ripped-jeans fashion look' that's been spreading for the last coupl'a years?" a friend asked the other day.
"Yeah," I replied, "but these Levis aren't that old and I caught them on a fence in a couple of places and I just couldn't throw them away yet. I've got to get them mended."
"And here all along," said friend replied, "I just thought you were cool."[[In-content Ad]]