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“I used to try to fit in. I remember doing a thing on stock car racing. I went down to North Wilkesboro, N.C., … and I wore a green tweed suit and a blue button down shirt and a black neck tie and some brown suede shoes and a brown Borsalino hat. I figured that was really casual. After about five days, Junior Johnson, whom I was writing about, came to me and he says, ‘I don’t mean to be rude or anything … but people I’ve known all my life down here … they keep asking me, “Junior, who is that little green man following you around?”’ It was then that it dawned on me that … nobody for 50 miles in any direction was wearing a suit of any color, or a tie for that matter, or a hat, and the less said about brown suede shoes the better. … I was also depriving myself of the ability to ask some very obvious questions … if you’re pretending to fit in, you can’t ask these obvious questions.
He said that the best thing about summer, something that he always does is he buys a pair of Levi’s jeans at the beginning of the summer and wears them every single day until the end of the summer and never washes them. And sometime about July he said they start to stink a little but it doesn’t matter because that’s when they start getting good. That’s when they start fitting. And he said by August, they are sticking to your ass so perfectly that he doesn’t care if no one is going to come near him, it doesn’t matter. He finally has the perfect pair of jeans.
Whether you’d do such a thing or not, the whole doc is worth checking out if you’re a denim head or simply interested in cultural history.
Previously: Repair Your Own Jeans.
“The man who has just left his wife or his profession or both often stops shaving temporarily. The resulting beard, as it develops, will most obligingly give him the different successive aspects appropriate to the stages of psychological and social development he is about to pass through. That is, first it makes him look like someone caught in a natural disaster—flood, earthquake, fire; then it makes him look like a bum; then like a shipwrecked mariner; and finally like a desperado. Eventually the man either returns to his wife and/or job (or to a very similar wife and job) and shaves off his beard; or else he changes his life permanently, in which case the beard (if allowed to survive) takes its final form and becomes part of his new persona.”
—Alison Lurie, The Language of Clothes (1981)
“I take very good care of my clothes. When I get home, I instantly hang up my jacket. If it’s hot outside, I’ll hang it on the shower rod so that it can air out a bit before I put it away. That’s the first thing I do. Then I’ll hang up my shirt if I’m going to wear it again that night, and I change into another shirt that I just wear around the house. It’s from high school and has holes in it. I love it because it’s mine and because nobody sees me in it, ever. I put my cufflinks in their little box. I shoeshine once a week. My jeans go in the washing machine, my shirts go out (they’re starched), and my clothes that need to be dry-cleaned go to the most expensive dry-cleaner. I dry-clean as infrequently as possible—not only because it’s psychotically expensive, but also because who knows what it does to the clothes? Dry…clean. These words don’t go together. Wet clean—that is how you clean. I can’t even imagine the things they do at the drycleaner. I don’t want to know.”
Selections from a wide-ranging interview with William Gibson about clothes.
On the popularity of American fashion in Japan:
Japan had a more radical experience of future shock than any other nation in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. They were this feudal place, locked in the past, but then they bought the whole Industrial Revolution kit from England, blew their cultural brains out with it, became the first industrialized Asian nation, tried to take over their side of the world, got nuked by the United States for their trouble, and discovered Steve McQueen! Their take on iconic menswear emerges from that matrix. Complicated!
On his interest in classic American military and workwear styles:
“Authenticity” doesn’t mean much to me. I just want “good”, in the sense of well-designed, well-constructed, long-lasting garments. My interest in military clothing stems from that. It’s not about macho, playing soldiers, anything militaristic. It’s the functionality, the design-solutions, the durability. Likewise workwear.
On how clothes used to be better:
… in 1947 a lot of American workingmen wore shirts that were better made than most people’s shirts are today. Union-made, in the United States. Better fabric, better stitching. There were work shirts that retailed for fifty cents that were closer to today’s Prada than to today’s J.Crew. Fifty cents was an actual amount of money, though. We live in an age of seriously crap mass clothing. They’ve made a science of it.
On the “gray man”:
There’s an idea called “gray man”, in the security business, that I find interesting. They teach people to dress unobtrusively. Chinos instead of combat pants, and if you really need the extra pockets, a better design conceals them. They assume, actually, that the bad guys will shoot all the guys wearing combat pants first, just to be sure. I don’t have that as a concern, but there’s something appealingly “low-drag” about gray man theory: reduced friction with one’s environment.
Man, I could listen to William Gibson talk about clothes all day. Read the whole thing.
Previously: William Gibson on Tommy Hilfiger.
“Good clothes look better when they are nearly worn out than very cheap clothes look when they are new.”
—Edward Spencer in Clothes & the Man (1901)
Related post: “Repair Your Own Jeans.”
The white patch thing is one of Vlieseline’s many iron-on interfacings but I’m not sure which one. More information — including a link to order a free repair kit — can be found at the Nudie Jeans website.
Jeans, like leaves in the fall, are at their most beautiful just before they disintegrate. This guy’s got the right idea:
“I want timeless elegance. Fashion has no time. I do. I say ‘Hello lady, how can I help you?’ Fashion has no time to even ask such question, because it is constantly concerned with finding out what will come next.”
(Via Roberto Greco.)