I remember the 1970s, when blue jeans were considered the ultimate rebellion against any kind of social hierarchy. It was cool to wear blue jeans, but especially cool if one was rich, smart, female, good looking or popular. When exceptional people wore blue jeans, it signified that their exceptionalism was so obvious it didn’t need any external support. The blue jeans statement was “I’m so cool I don’t need to prove anything by wearing better clothes”. Suddenly everyone was in blue jeans – entertainers, politicians, school teachers, and CEOs.
Nowadays, of course, most people who wear blue jeans aren’t making any kind of statement. They just dress according to prevailing social expectations. It is much the same with other trends. The tattoos you see on female ankles today started among strippers. The earrings you see on men started among homosexuals cruising the bars. The baggy pants on boys started among prison inmates. So, whereas culture used to flow from the top down, modern culture flows from the bottom up. Trends that had their origins in the sewer end up becoming mainstream. It is therefore worth exploring what it is about blue jeans that made them such a symbol of rebellion in the first place.
My grandfather was a solider, a cop, a farmer, a hunter, and a fisherman – a man’s man, if there ever was one – and I never once saw him wearing a pair of jeans. I don’t own a pair of jeans myself. My boys wear blue jeans sometimes because they are rugged enough for rough play, good for wearing around the ranch, and (importantly) affordable. Jeans were justifiably popular among gold miners because of their famous durability. They do have their place. But I wonder if grown men shouldn’t rebel against the rebellion, so to speak, and return to wearing clothes which are better suited to the dignity of their work, their leisure, and their station in life.