Very. Sad. But. Oh. So. True. And ladies, if you happen to be the wife, girlfriend, mother, daughter or sister, maybe you should gift a pair to the man in your life? 🙂
Read My Hips: These Are Jeans That Fit
THE big issues and tough questions are what concern us here in Style Land. Let other people fret about the recession, health care and the future of Conan O’Brien’s pompadour. What troubles us is how the male consumer’s simplest decision somehow became the most difficult and fraught. Why, that is, are blue jeans, that most blameless and universal item of apparel, the one thing men always get wrong?
Actually, not every guy messes up, and that includes oldsters like Harrison Ford, who can be seen in the poster for his latest movie, “Extraordinary Measures,” striding urgently in the direction of some imminent crisis while clad in a pair of jeans whose cut and fit make him look more like a contemporary of his co-star, Brendan Fraser, than someone old enough to be that actor’s dad. If the 67-year-old Mr. Ford can somehow find jeans that fall within the Goldilocks parameters of suitable masculine style (not high-waisted or crotch-hugging, not too baggy and not grafted onto one’s legs), why is it that so many middle-aged men end up wearing mommy jeans or pants reminiscent of Ted Danson in “Cheers”?
“Men make so many mistakes” in their choice of denims, said Dan Peres, the editor of Details, the men’s style magazine. Offhand, Mr. Peres cited a list of offenses against what may be the perfect garment (Yves Saint Laurent always said he wished he had invented them) that included bad washes; machine-made wear holes and shredding; the awful bleached-in crease marks called whiskers; rises so high they make a guy look as if he’s wearing Huggies Pull-Ups or so low they create entirely unwelcome dorsal cleavage.
“Really, it should be the easiest style choice a guy has to make, what jeans to wear,” said Mr. Peres, who at 38 is at that dangerous age where one wrong sartorial move can mark you as a person frantically clinging to youth or slumping into middle-age surrender.
But it is not the easiest choice, at least to judge from the abundant Web sites dedicated to the obsessive pursuit of perfect jeans, which, in most cases, online connoisseurs define as something very close to the model Levi’s manufactured just after World War II.
“Something went amok with jeans in the late 1970s,” Charles DiSipio, the owner of History Preservation Associates, a Web distributor of “heritage” jeans, said by phone, “consistent with everything else in our culture.”
From the viewpoint of purists like Mr. DiSipio, who sells a variety of Japanese cult brands like Sugar Cane, the best “dungarees” are the least adorned, the least tampered with, those made from something like the original and durable indigo denim. “Whenever something loses its original use and becomes something for fashion,” Mr. DiSipio said, “the purity and beauty get diluted.”
That dilution began, by his estimation, when jeans were first subjected to bad bleach jobs and were refashioned in dowdy styles that, taken up by a then-young generation of Baby Boomers, are still being worn by those same men. How, he asked, does one account for the way men become trapped in the memory of their finest sartorial moment? What was it about being 17 that makes it a challenge for Matt Lauer, say, or Jerry Seinfeld or Barack Obama to gaze in a mirror and note that the light blue jeans one wore so confidently three decades ago now look a trifle sad?
“It’s like men keeping the same hairstyle for decades,” Mr. Peres said.
You can blame designers for overthinking or retailers for cramming their denim bars with more choices than you’d find behind the sneeze guard at a cheap buffet. You can blame Levi’s for erratic shifts in strategy that turned a simple search for a fresh pair of old reliables into a scavenger hunt.
It sounds simplistic, but to find great-looking jeans now, look first for fit, said Michael Williams, a marketing consultant whose blog, A Continuous Lean, explores peak moments in the history of American male fashion with a reverence that borders on obsession. Mr. Williams starts with jeans whose waistband neither grazes one’s bellybutton nor threatens to expose waxing secrets (or their lack.)
- Stick to dark blues
- let real wear do the job of distressing your trousers
- Say no to whiskers, in other words.
- Buy jeans rinsed if you cannot stand to break in trousers that initially feel as if they had been cut from a refrigerator box with a utility knife
- Whatever you do, steer well away from those pale blue relaxed-fit denims that caused the president so much grief when he was accused of wearing mommy jeans.
“You don’t have to buy jeans at some crazy-expensive place,” said Mr. Williams, whose preferred jeans are custom made by the in the meatpacking district and, at $300, fall within the range of the crazy-expensive. “You don’t have to spend $150 to get a nice-looking pair of jeans,” he said, adding that friends who complimented him on $50 jeans he bought last year were surprised to learn that they were not from some specialty denim cave like Hinoya Plus Mart in Tokyo but from Gap.
That a good fit can be found by men of all ages is well exemplified by Mr. Ford. His jeans in “Extraordinary Measures” — cut lean, dark blue, with no fussy extras and with a modest rise that even men of ordinary fitness might wear without embarrassment — are so correct that retailers should be encouraged to display the movie posters in their denim bars for instructional use.
The fact that his clothes were selected by his longtime costume designer, Bernie Pollack, proves that hipsters have no lock on getting denim right. Mr. Pollack is 74.
“I hate all the designer jeans, the fake treatments and the artificial aging,” said Mr. Pollack, who also outfitted Robert Redford in film for 30 years.
“We tried some of the designer washes from some of the hip stores for the movie,” he said by phone last week from his home in Los Angeles, “but it didn’t fit the character and it didn’t fit with Harrison.”
Ultimately, Mr. Ford and Mr. Pollack settled on a pair of 13MWZ Wranglers (about $32 online) for the star. The secret for Mr. Ford or for an average Joe, Mr. Pollack said, is “to have some bit of style, but still look basic.”
After all, he said, the essential element of jeans style is nonstyle — that, and one other thing: “They have to fit your rear.”
Written by Guy Trebay for The New York Times.
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