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April 27, 2017

Cultural Appropriation: For $425, Nordstrom's Will Sell You Distressed Jeans Splattered With Fake Washer-Safe Mud So You Can Play Dress-Up as Someone From the Outdoors-Working Class

From Mike Rowe, who gives the post a title that really can't be improved, Jeans Made to Look Like You Work Hard So You Don't Have To.

More and more of life seems to be nothing but artifice. The carefully-curated presentation of oneself on Instagram and FaceBook and Twitter, always eating a luxe restaurants and always taking selfies at exciting places.

Rock-climbed exactly once in your entire life? Perfect-- make that your avatar on Tinder.

Why not take that Life of Illusion into meatspace and just begin playing dress-up as something you are not?

Finally -- a pair of jeans that look like they have been worn by someone with a dirty job…made for people who don’t. And you can have your very own pair for just $425.00.

Here’s the official description, from their website.

"These heavily distressed medium-blue denim jeans embody rugged, Americana workwear that’s seen some hard-working action with a crackled, caked-on muddy coating that shows you’re not afraid to get down and dirty."

On the positive side, Nordstrom's isn't purging their shelves of work-related imagery, like the owners of Monopoly did when they replaced the wheelbarrow with a rubber ducky. They seem to value icons work. What they don't value -- obviously -- is authenticity.


Not real mud. Fake mud. Something to foster the illusion of work. The illusion of effort. Or perhaps, for those who actually buy them, the illusion of sanity.

The Barracuda Straight Leg Jeans aren't pants. They're not even fashion. They're a costume for wealthy people who see work as ironic -- not iconic.

Rowe's write up is pretty much spot on, but I have to find something to add or disagree with, so I'll pick this nit: While I agree with him 99.9%, I'd point out that fashion has always kind of been about costuming, signalling, and aspiration. That's not new.

A lot of the "athletic clothing" purchased in America is by people who are decidedly not athletic. When a very heavy boy buys really expensive sneakers, yeah, it's dress up in a way. But it's also him putting on the mask of what he wants to be.

As Mike Rowe says, the one good thing is that hard work isn't being denigrated here, but valorized: Something worth... well not doing, but something worth dressing up as if you do.

And if I'm being honest, mudded-up jeans do look pretty good. Pretty much because whenever I see them it's a movie I'm watching and the Muscular Leading Man just managed to save a rogue cow from stampeding off a canyon edge by wrestling it by its horns into the muddy earth. (See, it's raining like hell out and there are lightning flashes because of course there must be.)

However, there used to sort of be a rule that you can't just totally play dress-up. If you bought a BUM sweatshirt, you had to go to the gym at least once or twice. You can't just wear a leather back brace around like an Olympic weightlifter for fashion if you don't ever actually lift.

Do you even mud, bro?

The falling of this rule -- that you must attempt some semblance of what you pretend to be -- is probably now permitted by endless Brand Creation that everyday people do for themselves on the internet, plus the odd and new proposition that anyone is whatever they claim to be, whatever sex they claim, whatever race.

If you can believe this -- some people on the internet will claim sometimes be 28 years old, when they're actually rather older than that. (Going on 29 pretty soon, in my case.)

But we seem to be crossing a Rubicon of Reality here where you can now play dress-up with expensively faux-muddied clothing to look like a humble cowhand.

I suppose it would be easy enough to adapt Second Skin -- make it thicker, add a yellow tint -- to begin painting on Fake Callouses every morning to Steal the Look from a real cowboy.

Anyway, this is where we are, this is who we are now.

The watchword is decadence. Fashion I don't mind, and I recognize there's an element of play and fantasy in many higher-end fashions. I always want a pea coat, partly because of its association with merchant marines, but always feel like it would be dress-up and I can't get one. Same with army-style jackets.

Yeah, I like the look, but I don't want to separate myself that far from the real world.

This complete divorce from vital, primal physical reality, and this retreat in a child's playground of Let's Pretend, seems to me to very decadence of a very advanced type.

Now I'm going to take my messenger bag and go deliver some very important military orders to my commander at Starbucks. With your kind leave, Sir.

BTW: I'm aware there's bigger and newer news. Some of it makes me so angry I really need to process it so I can express myself in something other than curses (and worse).

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posted by Ace at 12:45 PM

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