With the exception of a brief period of time from age 15 to 24, I’ve never been a fashionista. During my teens and post-adolescence, finding my way among my peers, my attention to fashion seemed mandatory since it occupied a great deal of attention from my friends. Thereafter I focused on family and career, believing that style failed to hold the importance of those other areas.
I don’t belittle women who waste lots of time shopping, reading fashion magazines, and thinking about style. That’s their choice.
But one fad irritates me no end. I find it patronizing and ridiculous. That’s the decision to wear jeans with holes in them. Most frequently in the knee area, but also across thighs, calves, even buns, some with a combination of all three, and a greater or lesser amount of exposure. Usually called “distressed” or “ripped,” you purchase these already hole-y or you buy new ones and cut, tear and wear into the pattern of your choice. They’re usually worn with $400 high heels, leather jackets, and $75 manicures and pedicures.
There’s the rub. Believe it or not, there are people in this country and this world who can’t afford new clothing. They wear pants with rips, holes, and patches, not with self-satisfaction and preening, but with numb acceptance. Perhaps there are some who dress with pride in rags because they are triumphing over their circumstances. They know the importance of NOT defining themselves by the cost or condition of their garments.
Distressed pants coopt, embrace qualities like rebelliousness, individualism, populism. In the 60s and 70s, counter-culturists wore distressed jeans to recycle useable materials, to protest a consumerist materialistic culture, or to express their creativity through embroidery and artistic patches.
Most women wearing ripped jeans now have no idea what their appearance advocates. As they step adroitly out of the way of a homeless bag lady asking for a handout, as they toss money in a high-end store to purchase a piece of clothing that could feed a family in poverty for a week, they make a mockery of the realities of life for the poor. They insult people too broke to buy decent attire. My 12 year old niece might be excused because she’s still trying on personalities and interests. An adult woman? Not so much.
Are they a fashion or a fad? Fashion lasts longer and tends to emulate “prestige groups,” although some commentators see the process as a mutual exchange. Fads come and go quickly and tend not to originate in the elite. They’re ephemeral and follow the pattern of a craze, first exciting and capturing notice, spreading quickly, finally fading into nothingness.
In the case of distressed pants, a slap in the face of every needy individual in the world, we can only hope. You’re not fooling a soul. You’re neither fashionable nor socialist.