I’ve got seven years. Seven years and two months, actually. Not that I’m counting the days or anything. But in seven years and two months I’ll be 50. Fifty! I’m not sure how it happened, but somehow I’m closer to 50 than 30. Hell, I’m closer to 50 than 35. (Mind, this will eventually happen to all of you, with your hashtag T-shirts and native-inspired footwear—yes, I’m talking to you, Jake Woolf.) And style is no country for old men. But I didn’t come over here to Four Pins to bitch about impending middle age and AARP bulletins, especially seeing that all of you young motherfuckers don’t believe in that kind of thing anyway. No, I came here to talk about pants. Denim, in particular. Which is my other problem.
I don’t consider myself a denim nerd by any stretch of the imagination. I never had a Superfuture account. I couldn’t tell you the difference between a right-hand and left-hand weave (although I know they exist). I never sought out obscure Japanese selvedge brands woven on ancient American mills. As recently as 15 years ago, my everyday jean was a light wash pair of Phat Farm carpenter jeans that were just as baggy as they sound. Needless to say, things have changed since then.
My selvedge gateway drug, as it is for many, was a pair of A.P.C. New Standards. I ordered them from Blackbird a few years back, wore them religiously for close to a year before washing them, achieved nearly perfect whiskering and then sold them to Buffalo Exchange since, like many who bought their A.P.C.s online, I foolishly thought that ordering my actual size was the way to go. For fuck's sake. Turning back, though, that was out of the question. I’d taken the red pill.
I don’t remember what the next pair was. Blackbirds? Maybe the RRL Marshalls pack come up ($50 a pair, one blue and one black). Whatever, it was some heirloom, wear-for-a-year-don’t-buy-anything-else type shit. Did I do that? Of course not. A whole world of selvedge beckoned. Tellasons, LVC 505s, the two pairs of Marc Jacobs Wranglers that appeared at Buffalo Exchange in consecutive weeks. A pair of Raleighs. 3Sixteens. More Blackbirds. A pair of Kicking Mule Workshop that I found at Buffalo, looked up on Google, then went back for the next day, finally finding them on the tried-on rack. Lee 101s. More LVCs, 501s this time—1955s from a sample sale, 1947s from J. Crew on that impossible to resist "additional 40% off sale items" sale. A pair of Wallace & Barnes salt wash, Japanese denim made in…
And once a pair is broken in perfectly, who the fuck wants to break in another? Spend another year in another pair of raw denim? There has to be another way.
Here’s the worst part. Well, I guess there are a lot of worst parts. I now have stacks of denim, in different area codes, no less, some at my apartment, a lot at my parents' house in Long Island, pairs at the goddamn office, most of them never worn. It's Ludacris. And I don’t have a fucking prayer of breaking them all in before I'm in a nursing home. Yet, I still buy. Is it a way to avoid thinking about the inevitable? "I can’t die now, God, I still have all this 14.5-ounce selvage to break in!" Probably not, seeing that a) I’m at best an agnostic, and b) my trillion hours of iTunes music (which is a whole separate issue) already covers that. But this is a similar problem.
Great denim doesn’t just beg to be worn, it begs to be worn a LOT. Like with music, I tend to gravitate towards favoritesm which, for me, is the 1967 505s my girlfriend got me for Christmas in 2012 and a pair of black Vim Beget x Blackbird Hazlewoods. It's one or the other, every single day. And once a pair is broken in perfectly, who the fuck wants to break in another? Spend another year in another pair of raw denim? There has to be another way.
But is there? Another quick story: A couple years ago I gave my dad a brand-new pair of 505s that I bought at a Goodwill. Nothing special, just a dark blue pair that were a touch too small for me at the time. My dad is retired and closing in on 80, but he still does a lot of yardwork and gardening, and wears the same jeans and chambrays to do it in. I saw those same jeans a year or so later, and damned if they weren’t worn in perfectly. Perfectly! It would take me a decade to do the same job working at a fucking desk and riding the subway, which led to a thought: My dad wears the same 32 x 32 as me—maybe I should just give him all my raw denim a pair at a time and take it back after a year. Hell, maybe I should place a Craigslist ad for yardworkers and contractors and delivery guys to break my jeans in for me. This is where the rabbit hole leads.
Even in that best case scenario, though, even with my stacks of denim worn in to perfection, wouldn’t I still gravitate towards the same, said pairs? Would any of those broken-in-by-proxy pairs measure up to the worn-in 505s I already wear? And wouldn’t that sort of ready-made solution just cause me to buy even MORE raw denim? With a virtual army of breaker-inners, what impedance would there to be to my buying endlessly? Would this solve my problem?
So I continue, eyes wide open, marching headlong into the abyss. I have seven years left to break in a lifetime's worth of denim, and, as that day looms closer, I continue to wear the same pairs I've broken in already, and eye new pairs that it would take a Harley-riding lumberjack seven years to break in alone. (Iron Heart 21oz. selvedge? Yes please. Is there a payment plan?) And that the whole 50 thing. It's totally arbitrary, I suppose. Nick Wooster is older than that. Glenn O'Brien is older than that, and he still shops at Supreme. Hell, Nikki fucking Sixx is older than that, and I don’t think he’s switching over to Dockers anytime soon. And if my dad is near 80 and still breaking pairs in properly, maybe I have another whole LIFETIME of denim left, not just three-quarters of a decade. Fuck it, see you at Self Edge.
Russ Bengtson is a Senior Staff Writer at Complex. You can follow him on Twitter here.