Remember the pilot of “Put This On” and how it was kind of mindblowing that some people spend a couple hundred dollars on jeans? At the time, I thought, “Wow, that’s fucking expensive. I’ll never do that.” Fast forward two-and-a-half years later and I’m buying a pair of 3Sixteens at Self Edge in San Franscisco’s Mission District.
But let’s rewind a bit to just over two years ago when I decided to buy a pair of Levi’s 501s that happened to be selvedge and their “rigid” dark denim fabric. I did the whole thing of sizing down 2” in the waist, knowing it would stretch and began to break them in for a week. Then two weeks. Then almost three.
I never got them hemmed, even though my tailor gave me some shit about rolling the cuffs (“You look like a little boy!” he said, after only a few weeks earlier telling me I should start shaving regularly because I looked like an old man). I washed them the first time in a bathtub with Woolite Dark and let them hang dry after about six months.
It’s been about the same amount of time between washes since. It’s not that I can’t stand the smell, but every once in a while I’ll be at the grocery store or in a bar in Logan Square and some hipster just reeks really bad of body odor — like those kids in junior high gym class whose parents hadn’t had the deodorant talk yet with them — and I get a bit self conscious and smell my jeans to see if they are approaching ironic levels of freshness. I just hate the idea of smelling offensive to people when I actually have access to water and soap.
Still, the jeans are great. No crotch blowouts, no rips or serious damage. The fading has started to show up a bit, especially when I compare them to my newer jeans. But the real awesome thing is just how comfortable they are to wear. I love wearing them around the house, because they’re never not soft and worn. It’s like comfort food, that you wear on your legs.
Best of all, they weren’t that expensive. You can easily find pairs for under $100.
The cut isn’t the slimmest, but it’s not bordering on absurd, either. If you really want to slim them up, pay $15-30 to a tailor to have them tapered to your liking (something I did with a pair in white denim). Plus, I really like them for the fact they have a button fly and the rise on them is a little bit higher — something nice to have in the sea of low-rise denim out there (how people keep their shirts tucked in, I’ll never know).
But get a cheap pair of jeans and then you won’t be afraid to screw them up by wiping your dirty hands on them all the time — like when you’re prepping ingredients to make tacos or spilled some of your drink on your hands. They’re jeans, not rare silks. Wear them paintballing or while digging your car out from the largest blizzard in decades.
I’m not going to be that denimhead who tells you “My jeans, they tell a story,” because that’s not true and my life isn’t that interesting. But I have noticed that there’s a worn diagonal crease line along the left thigh to the knee where the fabric always bends from when I cross my leg while sitting. And there’s a white stain from my pet cockatiel who shit on them because I haven’t figured out how to housetrain her in the past dozen years I’ve had her — not that I’m angry or anything about that.
You’ll probably wear jeans a lot — even if you wear a suit all day, you’ll probably just want to come home and change into jeans at the end of it — and I can say for certain that a pair of Levi’s 501s should last you a good while. I feel like I got a lot of mileage out of mine and I still keep grabbing them off the door hook in the morning.
(“Investment Pieces" is a series about the items in my wardrobe that have gotten the most usage and wear. It’s part review and part paean to the clothes I really would recommend to anybody. These aren’t luxury items or limited in availability — you can get them anywhere at anytime for a fairly reasonable price.)
White denim is fantastic for summer — a favorite of mine last year. It pairs well with blues and tans, making it a great fit to either contrast with hopsack blazers or linen sport coats. For those looking to take a more colorful approach to summer in their tailored jackets — either preppy or Pitti inspired — the neutral tone of white works well to compliment them, too, be they a wild madras or vivid washed cotton.
If you’re unsure of where white denim might fit into what you already wear, treat them like you would khaki chinos or grey trousers in your wardrobe. I find white denim works best as a casual alternative to trousers and a warmer substitute for fabrics like linen on sunny weekend days.
Best of all, getting white denim isn’t that costly and fits right in for those of you on the ramen noodle budget.
Levi’s 501s in white denim are on sale for $33.60 with promo code FF2012, which knocks 30% off during their Friends & Family sale. (Sale ends May 7th.)
As far as sizing goes, I went down 2” from my waist size, as the denim will stretch out over time. Also, I took mine to the tailor to have them altered to a 7-inch leg opening and hemmed to no break. They look great with a pair of suede tassel loafers or chukka boots.
Now that the weather’s nicer and the sun is out, it’s time to bring back white denim. Sure, you can wear it year-round, however, rain, snow, mud, etc. will probably mess them up and it’s not worth the trouble for me. But temperatures in the high 70s and no rain? Shine on.
Before heading out today, I decided to shoot a few looks of how I’ll be incorporating white jeans into my basic uniform for summer. Nothing revolutionary here, but if you haven’t picked up a pair yet, perhaps this will tip you toward such a purchase.
For those that want to know, they are a pair of Levi’s 501s that I had tapered at the tailor to a 7” leg opening. The jeans plus alterations shouldn’t run you over $70 total, and while you certainly can buy higher-end white denim, just keep in mind that it’s only a matter of time before you dirty them up to the point of no return and you’ll have to buy a new pair if you want that super-bright look. Dark denim will hide stains, white denim will showcase them.
For going casually: just a lightweight wool sport coat, no tie and a red-checked square. This isn’t a typical look for me, but would work great on those unbearably hot days when a necktie is even too much.
For going to dinner: a blue linen jacket, navy with red dot square and a club-striped necktie. Linen keeps this a bit more sport-ish and casual, but the tie and semi-constructed jacket gives the look a slight bit of formality that looks appropriate for dinner (hopefully, it’s outdoor dining).
For going to work: Jeans to work? Sure, it’s summer. Navy wool blazer (partially lined), red square with white edges and necktie. Probably should wear socks, too — or not.
For going to Hell: Add your loudest jacket, put on your shades and enjoy a mojito.