Even when I worked in women’s retail, I never made the jump into the heyday of designer jeans.
I was a Levis gal. During my ten years in Montana, I was gifted a pair or two of Wranglers and gave them a try. They didn’t fit my body quite right. The Wranglers got shoved to the back of the closet, used for yard work and climbing onto my roof to brush off snow. They eventually made their way to the giveaway bag and I went back to owning Levis.
505s, 415s, 714, straight leg, curvy cut, boot cut—they’re all good. I’ve been looking for the perfect pair of 501 (button fly) but can’t seem to track them down.
For my friends, I want them to treat me like I treat my Levis … so welcome to have around, they resist parting with me as long as possible. I had two pair of colored Levis—wheat and sage—that didn’t fit post-menopausal me as well as they did pre-menopausal me, but yet I kept them. I’d longingly open their drawer, even sigh, fondle their softness, and pull them on once in a while. They fit. But not with that same sexy panache they first had. Yet, I was reluctant as all get out to finally gift them to another. Then the perfect someone came along and I was happy to share.
By the time I’m ready to fully retire my Levis, they’re full of holes from my adventures, ink stains from the pen that burst when I had to record those thoughts during the flight to Italy, and have a bit of fraying along the hems because they’re a half inch too long for my hiking shoes. My jeans live a long and busy life—they go places, get cookie dough smeared on them when I bake, they deliver gifts to friends… They do all this long before they fully die, with blown out knees from too much spring gardening, and ripped back pocket edges from shoving my iPhone in the right rear one.
Levis are admired for their durability and so I wish to be. I want to be like my dad, whom we called The EverReady Bunny. I want to be like my great Aunt Edith, who at 80-something would have me to her house for an elaborate lunch before I went to (my retail) job. I want to be like my neighbor, Helen, who in her late 80s told me: people see an old person when they look at me, but inside, I’m still 26. Yes, Helen, you sure were—conducting step-races with the other residents after you moved into the old folks home, creating new, fresh friendships no matter what your ages.
Levis are stylish, but understated and look great with a white cotton shirt. Having escaped corporate America to devote my time to writing mysteries, blogging about travel (and other musings), creating blank travel journals with blog excerpts for sale, making progress on a humorous memoir about my less than normal childhood … the outfit du jour is usually Levis (we folks who work at home really don’t spend the day in our pjs) and a comfortable shirt. I’m not a big fan of t-shirts, so white cotton is the best, sleeves rolled up, buttons not choking me, tails out. I long to find a few of the chambray shirts I owned years ago, fashionable or not, they were utter comfort. I’m bound to come across them and those obscure 501s sometime, right?
Levis retain their vibrancy long after the deep blue color fades. No stone washed or pre-washed twenty times, or arriving with holes already in them. Not for me. I want new, dark, stiff as a board Levis. I want them to be so blue that I have to wash them alone for the first few times so they don’t ruin other clothes. I want that indigo to fade onto the tags inside, turning them from white to Montana-sky blue. Then I want those jeans to wear the way I use them. My pointy knees always, well, make a point first—starting to change color along that stress area. Can’t be helped, I’ve tried everything. Then the butt because—who doesn’t wear out the seat of their jeans by sitting in them?
My current Levi collection consists of five pairs, counting the tan corduroys. The newest three years old, the oldest at least ten. They eldest two are so soft from wearing and washing and drying and repeating that process, that I could almost sleep in them. The newest, Denizen, is just hitting its stride of comfort, with that slight faded cast along the double seams.
If I were going to be buried, I’d request that chambray work shirt, old Levis and my Oboz hiking shoes be the outfit I get popped into. But I’m opting for cremation and why waste the cool clothes to fire? Pass them along to another crazy redhead.
I want so much to go out of this life like a pair of Levi jeans. I want to be well-loved, used up, worn out in all the right places and still looking so good from the inside out that family and friends grudgingly let me go.
And yet, in saying good-bye, they’ll remember and hold onto the truth that throughout our friendships, I was the one they could count on to instigate the new and to hang around with them, conversations changing and evolving over the years, long after others drifted away.