Friday, October 14, 2005

Is there some such thing as used?

In a move that will interest at most two other bloggers, I now have in my possession a pair of Seven jeans. They were Old Navy-cheap, like-new as much as pants made to look used ought to be (no rips* or stains), and--and this is key--have already been shortened by someone else in the 5'2"-5'3" range. I got them at Beacon's Closet, a most fabulous vintage store that avoids the three main vintage pitfalls, which are: 1) Super-expensive clothing reduced slightly but not nearly enough to count as cheap used clothing; 2) Clothing cut for people who lived in an age when waists were high and half the size they are today; and 3) Clothing that is currently for sale at Express, but has already been worn, and so costs about a dollar less than it would at Express. (#1 is specific to NYC, #3 to Chicago, and #2 to everywhere vintage clothing is sold.)

So I once again semi-surrender in my fight against designer denim. The fabric and fit are admittedly better than what's found at the GAP. But I maintain that these jeans are not enough nicer to cost $180.**

* At my regular coffee bar in Midtown, I was recently served a cappuccino and muffin by an otherwise pleasant-looking young man...with jeans (of indeterminate designer) with a large rip on the upper left-hand side revealing a lack of undergarment. My question: Why? Was it to show how, unlike the office-types he serves, he chooses to have a low-key, non-corporate job? To imply that his job does not pay well enough to mend his pants? Was he simply oblivious? His otherwise stylized look would suggest that it was intentional. But unlike a rip at the knee, or even an ass-level rip with underwear of some kind showing, this transcended hipster and was flat-out gross. Revealing outfits can go right, but they can also go very wrong. But aside from the failings as a fashion choice, who wants coffee served by someone whose...very self is just a few inches from where milk is being foamed? I'm all in favor of moving beyond Ann Taylor and the brothers Brooks, but this was something else entirely.

** In the recent "Since When Do Handbags Cost $1000" article in the Times, the point was made that first there were super-expensive shoes, then jeans, and now handbags, as though with each new ascension in the price of something basic, the previous one begins to wane. A piece in Slate asserted that "Overpriced denim is an essentially fickle market," citing the fact that many super-expensive jeans are now on sale. Everything at Banana Republic goes on sale, but has the preppy work-clothes bubble burst? "With the average pair of jeans costing $25, it's hard to imagine how many more people will be willing to shell out eight times that much for some high-priced jeans, no matter how well they fit." My prediction? People will continue to shell out more for jeans until the apocalyptic subway explosion-type-thingy wipes us all out. Expensive jeans used to be for spoiled teenagers; now they are for women (and some men) of nearly all income levels who care how they look. You know how mirrors used to be extremely expensive, but are now an ordinary household item? How fatness used to be a sign of wealth yet now indicates poverty? Things change in society, and it could be that our society is slowly deciding it wants to spend more of its income on jeans. This new ratio of "jeans":"other stuff" may stay where it's at. That's not to say that individual pairs of jeans won't go on sale--they will, like all other clothing. Yet the American public has not responded to $200 with horror but rather with delight. We like the fancy-pants, and they're here to stay. As, I should note, are the $400 shoes and $1000 bags. Has it become passe for the women into that sort of thing to spend this much? Certainly not. I have no idea what such women are spending less on to compensate (lord knows it isn't rent), but it's got to be something.


Anonymous said...

"Things change in society, and it could be that our society is slowly deciding it wants to spend more of its income on jeans."

It's just another symptom of the fact that the ranks of folks with an obscene amount of disposable income has exploded over the past 10 years. The market for all sorts of luxury goods has gone through the roof.

"I have no idea what such women are spending less on to compensate (lord knows it isn't rent), but it's got to be something."

There are just more women who don't have to compensate.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the hole in his jeans just happened to coincide with an identically sized hole in his underwear.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Women buying $200 jeans are not, by and large, obscenely wealthy. These are items people save up for, at least in the circles I run in.