Hey, American consumer! Do you want to look like a real, rugged, hardworking man of the land, but without all the inconvenience of being either rugged or hardworking or actually encountering "land?"

Well, have we got a deal for you! Nordstrom is now selling jeans with the mud already caked on, for the low, low price of only $425!

The copy on Nordstrom's page for their mud-coated jeans states:

Heavily distressed medium-blue denim jeans in a comfortable straight-leg fit embody rugged, Americana workwear that's seen some hard-working action with a crackled, caked-on muddy coating that shows you're not afraid to get down and dirty.

Except that if you are buying $425 jeans, you probably are! You are probably very, very afraid of that. Also, most rugged, hardworking Americans would not wear jeans with mud caked on them anywhere outside of an actual worksite.

As much as I want to laugh at how incredibly ridiculous this is -- and oh boy is it ever ridiculous -- there is something so deeply cynical and cruel about rich people adopting what they think are the aesthetics of poor people in order to give themselves the aura of a lifestyle they haven't earned.

Now, time for some fashion history! As you probably know, ripped and patched jeans first became popular in the 1960s. At the time, it was less of a fashion statement than it was a social one. The whole point of wearing jeans until they ripped, or patching them up when they did, was to tell anyone who looked your way you were not down with consumerism, that you were too busy doing important things like saving the world from war or making art to go down to the store and spend what little money you had on something new. Authentically ripped and patched jeans have always figured strongly in anti-consumerist subcultures like the hippies, punks and grunge. Thus, the vast cynicism and irony of designer ripped jeans. See also: clothing that comes with safety pins already on it, designer clothes that just look like they came from a thrift or vintage store, trendy t-shirts of bands you've never actually listened to, etc. etc.

Like when Barney's was selling these Black Flag and Joy Division t-shirts for over $200 each. Both of which I had in high school and I think paid $18 for:

There is a long history of fashion designers cynically stealing ideas from other cultures and subcultures and then making them about 85,000 times more expensive. This allows the very rich and out-of-touch to get the feeling that they are very cool and "edgy" and Bohemian and authentic without needing to have any connection to the actual culture or life that goes along with that. Especially the part about not having $425 to spend on jeans.

This nothing new, actually. Back in the Victorian era, it became very fashionable for a while to be very pale and thin. Why? Because those were characteristics of having "consumption" -- which, because of operas like La Bohème and La Traviata, was considered a disease contracted primarily by artists. I wish I were joking but I actually am not. That was a thing. Looking like you had consumption so people would think you were deep and thinky and very artistic.

Rich people often want to look like they are culturally "with it" without having to put any actual effort into it, without searching through thrift stores, without having to sew the patches on themselves. Free People is perhaps the best example of this -- pretty much everything they sell looks exactly like the clothes we used to buy in high school from the patchouli-scented hippie store/head shop in my city, only marked up like 20,000% and with a website whose homepage is full of cheesecake underwear pics. Essentially, they are unapologetic "poseurs" as we used to say back in my day, get off my lawn with your synthetic permanent grass stains.

It is thus no coincidence Corporate Fashion has started to appropriate what it imagines are the aesthetics of the working class. With all the attention being paid to supposed "Real Americans" following the election, designers are perhaps thinking to themselves their customers would like to get in on that action. And they're probably right, to some degree. When being rich isn't cool, rich people often don't want to look like they're rich, either.

However -- if I know anything about fashion cycles -- AND I DO, the rich need not worry for long, and probably should not invest too heavily in fake muddy pants. The last two times that exuding wealth has been seen as more cool and aspirational than being Bohemian were during Republican presidencies -- Reagan with the all the yuppies and their boatwear, and George W. Bush with Paris Hilton and "it bags." Given the fact that Trump is overall less popular than those presidents were at those times, it's possible things might not go that direction, but you never know.

But also those pants are fucking ridiculous and you are stupid if you purchase them.

OK, fashion moment is over, get to your Open Thread!


Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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