October 28, 2016

"Many of us, ever since we first saw the guys in 'West Side Story,' have been in love with skintight jeans."

"(Many of us also have tried to duplicate the choreography of The Jets only to accidentally knock the cat off the bed. But I digress.) We have eaten carefully and worked out. Is our reward in midlife supposed to be a pair of dungarees so big and loose, they look like an orthopedist recommended them after knee replacement surgery? I say: No way! We haven’t exercised this much, skirted the carbs and avoided all those delicious desserts so we can look like a retired president who’s going to a Dave Matthews concert, have we? It’s time someone took a stand against all this self-imposed dorkiness. And I guess that someone is me."

From "Men, just say no to Dad jeans," by Peter Gerstenzang.

I'm struggling with this call to manliness that's premised on wanting to be like the gang-dancers in that old Broadway musical.  The classic great looking jeans of that era were Levi's 501 jeans which were not skintight and certainly not referred to as "skinny jeans." It was this:



The choice is not between "skinny jeans" and "dad jeans." Those are 2 dumb deviations in opposite directions from the ideal, which is just James Dean in Levi's 501 jeans. How can something so obvious for so long be forgotten?

42 comments:

Achilles said...

Jeans are uncomfortable and restrictive. They are the equivalent of high heels.

traditionalguy said...

Too hard to get off over your Justin boots.

Bob Ellison said...

I don't think Dean is wearing 501s there. I used to wear 501s. They're pretty skinny, and even on a skinny teen, they don't bag out like that, especially below the knee.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I'm not just some piece of meat for your viewing pleasure. I'm a real person with thoughts and-- Hey! My eyes are up here, Missy!

Ann Althouse said...

"I don't think Dean is wearing 501s there."

There are so many articles about how Dean is wearing 501s in that picture. I linked to one.

Just_Mike_S said...

501 button fly jeans, properly done, are tight in the right places. That goes for men and women.

Bob Ellison said...

Yeah...could be. Levi is marketing the hell out of that. Maybe when you have a 28-inch waist like I used to, they cut them differently. Maybe when you bought them dark blue off the shelf at K-Mart and knew they were gonna shrink an inch in the waist and two in the length, it was a different story.

Those are custom jeans.

Hunter said...

Didn't notice the "related" link in the middle of the page?

Read: Those cargo shorts you love? They may be hurting your marriage

Rusty said...

Bob Ellison said...
I don't think Dean is wearing 501s there. I used to wear 501s. They're pretty skinny, and even on a skinny teen, they don't bag out like that, especially below the knee.

Not in 19 fifty whenever that picture was taken. Jeans were still considered work clothes back then.

dustbunny said...

It was Dylan, the Beatles and Stones that started the skinny jeans thing. They were small guys who could pull off an androgynous look that drove teen age girls crazy with a weird stew of identification and desire.

Hunter said...

I now see that article is just a redirect to a WSJ piece Ann previously blogged. Thought it seemed familiar.

Henry said...

I want pants that don't get caught in my bicycle chain if I forget my ankle guard.

The Gap Slim Fit line is good. Pretty close-fitting, but they don't cut off the blood.

Sebastian said...

"How can something so obvious for so long be forgotten?" It's not forgotten. It's just that the victory of feminism means that women can now tell men how to dress.

bagoh20 said...

When you get older, men tend to lose their ass, then 501s get pretty baggy, and fall right off after they are worn for a few hours. I've moved to 514s and 513s which have a tighter fit, but you get the ones with a couple percent elastomer and they give a lot, don't get baggy, and look as good at the end of the day as when you first put them on. The elastic really helps in the waist if ya know what I mean.

bagoh20 said...

I rarely wear anything but Levis jeans to work, play, or party, and that's all I do, so that's all I need. Occasionally for work I wear long camo cargo pants, because they hid the dirt which is highly attracted to me.

Rocketeer said...

They're pretty skinny, and even on a skinny teen, they don't bag out like that, especially below the knee.

The only jeans I've worn for my entire life are 501s. Perhaps you and I have differently proportioned calves but that's the way they've always fit me.

William said...

As I remember it, Levis used to shrink. You bought them a little loose and over time they became tight......Levis are comfortable if you have a flat belly. If you have a belly, the belly pushes the jeans down and you have to be constantly pulling them up. Levis are no for the overweight.

gadfly said...

Please don't make fun of "dad" jeans because some of us men require them to prevent "plumber's crack."

Hagar said...

Boot cut.

Titus said...

Dean looks great in those jeans.

I am muscular/toned build and if I wear loose jeans they look horrible.

I don't wear skinny jeans but all my pants are thin cut and tapered-including my jeans.

And I agree with the writer of the article. You fucking work your pussy off and you want to show it off-but age appropriately natch.

I would never wear a t (fitted natch) with anything on it-solid colors only.

thanks and tits!

Curious George said...

"Achilles said...
Jeans are uncomfortable and restrictive. They are the equivalent of high heels.":

Not Carhartt. Comfy. And their flannel lines Jeans in winter...like having PJ's on.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

I'm probably too old to wear the occasional rugby shirt but I do, and that is when I will wear jeans. I think I got them from Walmart. Wrangler. $16 or maybe $17.

Why that idea got implanted in my brain that I ought not wear one without the other is a bit of a mystery.

Maybe some neural pathway ossified in college.

Perhaps while feeling nostalgic for raking the leaves in Autumn.

Ficta said...

Black,shrink to fit, 501s FTW! I wear them to the opera. True story.

David said...

The crotch framing with the hands in the Dean photo is the most striking part. The fuck boy concept is nothing new.

Nigel Tufnel said...

Cue up the LBJ instructions. No sissy boy tight pants for him.

LBJ: Now the pockets, when you sit down, everything falls out, your money, your knife, everything, so I need at least another inch in the pockets. And another thing - the crotch, down where your nuts hang - is always a little too tight, so when you make them up, give me an inch that I can let out there, uh because they cut me, it's just like riding a wire fence. These are almost, these are the best I've had anywhere in the United States,

JH: Fine

LBJ: But, uh when I gain a little weight they cut me under there. So, leave me , you never do have much of margin there. See if you can't leave me an inch from where the zipper (burps) ends, round, under my, back to my bunghole, so I can let it out there if I need to.

My lined Carhartts are heavy as hell and go beyond dad jeans into some other realm altogether, but they are awesome for outdoor activity in the winter.

readering said...

Althouse may associate jeans in the movies with James Dean but Levi Strauss doesn't:

http://www.levistrauss.com/unzipped-blog/2014/02/denim-and-the-oscars-a-look-at-jeans-in-cinema/

readering said...


. . . And our company has Friday "jeans day" so I'm wearing my decades-old 501s. Never been a fan of the button fly, however.

John Christopher said...

I implore all the other dads to wear their loose-fit, acid-washed jeans and blouse-y shirts. Run from the smell and encourage the contrast.

Jay Vogt said...

. . . . traditionalguy said..."Too hard to get off over your Justin boots".

You're doing it wrong.

Paddy O said...

I used to work at a retail store that specialized in selling Levi's (Miller's Outpost). 501s have changed in cut over the years, and there are different cuts among the cuts. There's a boot cut Levi's, for instance. The older Levi's were also all shrink-to-fit, with the washing and the wearing affecting how it fits on a particular person. Had to wear them in before they really got comfortable.

Those are a lot less common with a lot more special cuts for different body shapes. I personally haven't been able to wear 501s since early high school. They're an average cut, neither skinny nor baggy, but I have strong, thick legs so couldn't get them over my thighs. i was very thin, then, otherwise, but they still couldn't fit.

Now, 550s fit just about perfect for me, the way 501s fit on most people. I used have a pair of loose fit, Silver Tab, button-fly jeans. Those were my favorite and most comfortable.

Levi's now are basically an entirely different product than mid-century versions, really up through the 80s, starting a transition in the 90s that now is total. Much less durable.

Skinny jeans were really unheard of until relatively recently. In the large wall of Levi versions I don't remember any that were skinny style like today. To get that look, men would buy women's jeans, that tapered quite a bit more than men's Levi's.

madAsHell said...

Many of us also have tried to duplicate the choreography of The Jets

Really?? Many of us??

Rocketeer said...

I'm struggling with this call to manliness that's premised on wanting to be like the gang-dancers in that old Broadway musical

Struggling? I'm dying laughing.

retail lawyer said...

I used to work for Levi Strauss at the HQ, in San Francisco, where they had a little museum with the story and photos of what happened when James Dean wore them. In those days, they were all made in America, and the first factory on Valencia Street was still operating. Now it is some sort of school. Levi's problem, I think, was that the competition got much better. The 501 is shrink to fit, and they do feel very uncomfortable for the first half hour of wearing after washing, but then they become very comfortable. Unless you are bicycling. Skinny jeans need lots of stretch material or you get bound up like Kramer did in that Seinfeld episode. They are really almost Yoga pants if you can do a Chuck Norris round house kick while wearing them.

Bruce Hayden said...

Been wearing jeans since I was young, except for junior high, when they weren't allowed. Started wearing Levis in high school, and done so ever since. Over 50 years now. Not when I as working, of course, but the rest of the time, which means most of the time now. Mother, originally from Chicago, thought that there were places where cords or kackies were more appropriate. Sorry, but we were all born in CO, and most of us have spent most of our lives in the west (except, for me, 5 years in DC).

Jim Grey said...

I bought three pairs of 501s this year, for the first time in going on 30 years. I like them, but I do not at all remember them being cut to fit so closely in the thigh and in the calf. I used to wear 505s religiously and experienced Levi's changing the cut of those over a 20-year period until they had changed so much they no longer looked good on me. I suspect they've done the same with 501s.

Sean E said...

I was going to say much the same as Paddy O, except with a lot less authority behind it.

Dean's 501s aren't the same as the 501s you'd buy today. They're not "skinny" jeans, but I find they do fit slim. I'm no one's idea of a bodybuilder, but I had to ditch my 501s pretty quickly after I added squats to my workout routine - too tight in the thighs. Sad - they'd been my go to jean for decades.

dbp said...

I was a skinny high school XC runner (5'8" and 125 lbs) I loved 501s, but even on me they were a little tight in the thigh. All jeans were, unless I wanted 3" of spare room at the waist. I liked the button fly, fewer Something about Mary incidents...

Unknown said...

This is what doesn't make sense to me - I assume this guy is around my age (40) with the reference to Slint. Their one big album, Spiderland, was released in 1991 but didn't really get well known in college radio circles for a few more years. That would put him in college in the mid-90s, same as me. And thus, I say to him, "Who the hell was wearing 'skinny jeans' in the 1990s???" I didn't, nor did I know anyone who did. Between grunge and hip-hop fashions, by 1992 or so jeans started getting baggier and baggier. Levi's Silvertabs were huge, both literally and figuratively. Some guys even bought em with a waist that was too large and had to be cinched tight with one of those long braided leather belts that were stylish at the time. This was the case until the early to mid 2000s. Tight jeans were a relic of the '70s and '80s. As I drift into middle age, I don't have the body to wear tight clothing these days anyway, but even if I did I'd find them uncomfortable as hell. Watch early episodes of Friends if you don't believe me - you'll never see them in skintight jeans.

Megaera said...

It isn't just the cut that's changed on 501s -- the fabric has altered significantly since the 50s. I used to get Levis off the shelf that were the consistency of thin plywood, and just about as comfortable to wear until they'd been washed and dried (HOT cycles) about 6 times. You can see that in the Dean picture, especially in the lower legs. In the 70s I bought mens' 501s because I could get closer to my measurements than I could with the womens' sizes, I liked the button fly, and I really liked the fabric weight -- it was worth all the struggle and guesswork with multiple washings to shrink them down and get them to fit well. Not, mind you, skin-tight-- just well. Recently went looking for the current iteration of 501s and was appalled at the change in the fabric heft and density (I had an old pair on the shelf I'd kept like a religious relic for comparison) ... hafta say, Levis have gone somewhere in a handbasket I'd just as soon not follow.

Steve said...

A little info on the evolution of 501 jeans. What you buy today are vastly different from what James Dean wore.

http://www.heddels.com/2012/07/a-rough-guide-to-levis-501-vintage-jeans-1947-to-1966/

Probably the closest you can get at the Levi's 501 Original Shrink to Fit Selvedge Denim for $128. http://www.levi.com/US/en_US/mens-jeans/p/288940030?camp=CAGPLA_DF:28894003003834:LEVI

mikee said...

I miss the brass button fly on jeans from my childhood. I even miss the much cheaper, and less satisfying to use, aluminum button fly on jeans from my teen years. What I miss most is having a size 32 waist to put in my jeans, that was AWESOME.

William Chadwick said...

Anything's better than cargo shorts.