Moving to Freedom, .Org

Reverend Blue Jeans

I like wearing blue jeans.

Is it because my mom played a lot of Neil Diamond when I was growing up? Maybe I first heard “Forever in Blue Jeans” at a particularly impressionable age. (I never misheard the lyrics as suggested by the title of this post, but I’ve learned it’s a common mistake made by Doug Heffernan and others.)

Forever in Plaid.

Me, 1977: Not in blue jeans,
but still ready for the
first day of school. In style.

There were times in elementary school when this same mother dressed me in corduroy. And in plaid. It was the ’70s, you know, which explains also the pseudo-jeans of that time: Toughskins.

By junior high I was mostly settled on jeans. There was that one pair of smoking hot red parachute pants in the seventh grade, but I swear it was just the one pair. And they weren’t my fault; it was 1983. And there were jeans mishaps along the way. I have no explanation for the skin-tight Jordache Jeans in the eighth grade.

Fast forward through the years and many pairs of Levi’s to the present, where I work in the sort of corporate fun factory that has a dress code forbidding jeans. This bothers me. It bothers me a lot. But I’ve found little support for my cause among the the local proletariat. There is no rage against the politburo. Instead, some of my comrades voluntarily participate in an abomination known as “Tie Tuesday.”

We’re not entirely jeans free. There are “jeans days.” These are dreadful days when as a reward or incentive, you are officially allowed to wear jeans. I know I should be rapturously grateful for this chance to wear my preferred pant material, but instead I’m filled with resentment and self-loathing. Resentment at being denied this choice every day, and self-loathing because I do it. I eat the piece of cheese. I wear the jeans on cue like the good corporate drone that I am.

It makes me happy to put jeans on in the morning for work. I feel comfortable. More confident. It shouldn’t matter, but there it is. I suppose that’s how it is for people that like to wrap a cord around their neck and tie a knot in it. Maybe the suit and tie people would feel out of place if others chose to wear jeans — it would cheapen their display of sartorial plumage — and so we Denimites are made to suffer for their comfort.

Sometimes at my job we’re asked to pay for the privilege of wearing jeans, in support of a fund-raising effort. This is much more degrading, to be asked to reinforce my capitulation to The Man by paying for the privilege of satisfying my simple desires. Usually, I don’t pay, and wear the jeans anyway. I’m that much of a rebel. (Or: cheap. And: a weasel. But let’s say it’s the principal of the thing. My clothing freedom shouldn’t be held hostage.)

Note that it’s not really a “suit and tie” kind of place where I’m at. It’s more of a “khaki and polo shirt” environment. But, still. I don’t want to dress up like a golf pro any more than I want to dress up like Bernie Madoff. Well, maybe a little more. But in any case, I’ll hold up the suit and tie as the symbol of corporate stuffiness and authority, while keeping in mind that more casual forms of business dress are just as oppressive when required.

Please note also that I’m not saying much about fashion options for women, having even less an idea of how that all works.

I object to the suit and tie and frillier forms of dress-up as an unnecessary facade. In business and in politics, men (usually) put on expensive suits and it reinforces their image of themselves as masters of the universe. And then they decide it’s a great idea to invade Iraq or sell collateralized debt obligations.

I much prefer the marketing of blue jeans that says, “I’m just an ordinary person,” even if that’s as much a lie as the expensive suit. I think we should have more humble lies in the workplace, even when engaged in Very Important Business. Same goes for the government. I’m weary of the grandiose lies.

Any clothing we put on is worn to disguise ourselves as much as it is displayed because of some deep-seated evolutionary drive to demonstrate how awesome we are and worthy of status and a mate. I’m not saying I don’t judge people based on clothing, or that I don’t believe in the value of “dressing up.” I just have my own standards. A suit, and in particular the tie, are silly relics. This continued ban on blue jeans in many workplaces is barbaric. Let’s enjoy more freedom in putting on our little shows, and endure less authoritarianism.

Given the choice between Father Suit and Reverend Blue Jeans, I’d much rather be… the Reverend Blue Jeans.