Distressed jeans bug me on a deep level.

See, I'm still smarting from that thing where no Ramones song charted after that 60 Minutes special.

If you don't know the story, here's the story: "Sheena is a Punk Rocker" reached number twenty-two on the UK Singles Chart and number 88 on Billboard's Hot One Hundred. It did it in 1977. First Ramones song to chart. And the last one.

Because you know what else happened in 1977? Because I will tell you. It's a boring road to bad-assery, but we need to cover all the steps.

Next thing to happen: 60 Minutes did a special on the British punk scene. Cool, right? Mainstream recognition of a pretty cool alternative culture.

Except we all know who first adopts the habit of noticing cool alternative cultures don't we? That's right: parents who want to outsource the reasons their kids are acting out. Right after reporters who know who buys news these days.

Which isn't to say these people are bad people. The cycle repeats itself whenever anything cool comes around, sure as a metaphor. And you will be the villain in this story someday when the next generation of kids tries to get into something a little too noisy.

It's lame, but it's also a guaranteed launch point into the zodiac of culturally definitive shit for the next thirty years. First reporters sell it to parents as the next bad guy. Then kids, who just want to figure out who they are, know exactly how to piss off their parents practically forever. (Tip to the future: you really want your kids to listen to Mozart? Make him out to be basically cool Satan. Then complain about him any time you hear him. Instant cultured generation.)

The messy part is when that generation grows up a little, learns the healing power of beige, and comes into their career, here's what happens: alternative culture creeps into the edges of the mainstream.

See, the thing about punk rockers is they had no money. Not at first. Nobody wanted to pay these people, and so they invented a sound and a look that expressed emotion without costing anything. They had holes in their jeans because those were their everyday jeans, and they bought them at a thrift store to begin with. It became mythologized as part of the culture because it turns out that being a little bit worn out around the edges appeals to us. Not all of us--not all the time. But some of us and some of the time, we find comfort in the touch of humanity that comes from it. We like to see a cheap guitar or a fuzzy finish to the sound, or the worn-out jeans and jacket look.

So, like escargot, it became stylish to explain an act of desperation. That's my theory. I have this theory, with no foundation on real research, that the first example of distressed jeans in a high culture setting was actually on some A or B list celebrity who ripped their jeans on accident, and then the publicity corps surrounding said celebrity said, "Oh, yeah, we did that on purpose." Then people who grew up on punk rock decided that it was cool after all, and they glommed onto it too.

Now you get to shop and pay MORE for a pair of jeans already worn out, not because it's cool but because you've been TOLD that it's cool.

That's my theory.

The moral: I believe holey jeans must be earned to be displayed.

The fact that they aren't: That's a triumph of marketing. You have been raised into a culture where you've been trained to see distressed jeans as attractive. That's how marketing works. That's its power. Marketing uses history and its accompanying mythology to create culture and its accompanying emotions.

Feelings sells, man.

It all sounds so fearfully wicked, doesn't it?


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