Blue Jeans—Scourge of America?

by Little Miss Attila on April 16, 2009

Not so much. I usually like George Will, but he’s getting into Dennis Prager* territory, here: reflexive cultural conservatism for the sake of reflexive cultural conservatism, using as its philosophical base reflexive cultural conservatism. (In other words, a hall of mirrors without end: the Red King dreaming about Alice, who is dreaming about the Red King—into infinity.)

Much as I hate it when I agree with Ace, he’s got this one right: the Sartorial Cops favor East Coast standards of dress over West Coast standards of dress, exacerbate class envy by forcing people to spend money they can’t afford on clothing (or waste time in thrift shops looking for high-quality discards, or painstakingly removing the labels from our knockoff threads).

It also has a tendency to mark conservatives who buy into this “reasoning” as uncreative; particularly in publishing circles, or West of the Rockies.

Will’s odd complaint that jeans-centered dress codes create the effect of leveling class strikes me as either a an odd sort of longing to live in Europe—where they can really do castes properly—or as a sideways way of saying, “come, now: we are all rich, aren’t we? Why pretend otherwise?”

Actually, some of us are not.

Ace:

There is a nice benefit of Levis: They’re fashionable, or, if not quite fashionable, unobjectionable, and you can get a pair at Wal*Mart for like fifteen bucks still.

Now, slacks are . . . well, fine, and I do wear them, but I wear the cheap ones, and of course I worry that they’re unstylish and people will make fun of me if they notice the budget manufacturer.

I don’t sweat that with Levis. There are more expensive jeans, of course, but I don’t worry that by wearing Levis I’m declaring to the world I’m broke-ass poor.

In the George Will/Dennis Prager/Daniel Akst world, those of us who have cash-flow problems would be publicly identifiable. Rather than having this vulgar country wherein nearly everyone identifies as middle-class, no matter how much or how little money he or she has, we’d be able to tell someone’s bank balance at a glance, as they could do in nineteenth-century England.

Which is, of course, a much better system. Just ask those who have money and would like to advertise that fact.

* Actually, I don’t mind Prager’s assertion that a jacket and tie is a good idea for a college graduation, or for church—but he does sport a lot of hall-of-mirrors reasoning on related cultural issues. And the Will/Akst notion that a son dressing like his father at a shopping mall is a cause for concern is extraordinary: in another time and place, both would be wearing overalls because those were the most practical outfit to wear when one was out and about. Or, among East Coasters with dough, they’d both be in khakis. So what?

UPDATE: Uh-oh; AllahP piles on; I should re-read that Will column for signs of irony (other than the self-parody at the end). Surely he was joking by putting out something so patently subjective . . .?

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Hey, George Will! What about THIS movie star in denim? — Cynthia Yockey
April 20, 2009 at 9:59 am

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Benny Mitchell April 16, 2009 at 5:03 pm

i wear my jeans everywhere, and anytime I want.

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