This post is about fashion, but I'll begin by recalling a song.
Throughout the 1970s Neil Diamond put out a series of songs that were a cut above the rest. They were catchy, and haunting, and deep, and emotional, and sometimes ironic, but always concerned with love of various kinds, and always true, and they all featured his particular voice, which I thought most attractive. It completely suited the songs. I was very sad when, sometime in the 1990s, I heard how far his voice had deteriorated with age. Sad in a way that I didn't feel when Frank Sinatra's voice went past its best. And Neil Diamond hadn't reached the stage of sounding dreadful: his voice was simply a shadow of its former self. It sounded strained and overworked and not nearly so strong. I was upset to hear it.
But in his heyday, the special Neil Diamond sound was at the top of the tree, and one of the songs I especially liked was Forever in Blue Jeans. Which was saying: 'Forget money; we can be poor but completely happy if we have each other, and love each other'. All wrapped up in a tune with a rhythm that you couldn't get out of your head, and sung in That Voice. I play it still, and enjoy it every time.
Well, what about blue jeans? Are they still the essential casual wear for both sexes? Or are they now becoming a period garment of the last century, iconic but not cutting edge, worn only to recall a golden age? So that the historical costume books of the future will show them as typical stand-by men's and women's fashion wear for a thirty year span up to 2000, but not since?
It's hard to say. Jeans are still highly useful items of clothing, well-suited to rough conditions (their original purpose) and visually very good with almost any top you can put on. They were never especially smart or stylish. They got better-cut as the years went by, and got shapely when the women's market was identified, and got very trendy indeed when fashion labels began to be important, but they were never things you would wear to the Lord Mayor's Banquet. They were in the same category as trainers; whatever you paid for them, whatever the label, however new or well-ironed they might be, they were not formal apparel. But that was the very point: at a glance, they said so much about your attitude to life. If you wanted to convey the impression that you were laid-back but streetwise, mellow but moody, then jeans got you more than halfway there. They were credible and cool. Like a packet of Marlborough cigarettes.
They were also very uncomfortable. They were designed for working men who wanted hard-wearing togs for the field or the factory. They began life in the company of boiler suits and dungarees. Then they got pretentions. But they never forgot their origins, and remained proud to be associated with truckers and cowboys and James Dean. A perfect, tailored fit was not essential, and it wasn't on offer for a long time. Even when attention began to be paid to the the fit, jeans seemed best suited to athletic, muscular young men with very slim hips. If like me you were an odd shape (I had quite wide hips) jeans were not good to wear. Oh yes, in my early struggles to look the part that I was supposed to play, I wore them all the time, but they would always be hard to put on unless I bought an oversize pair that my pelvic area would get into. But that meant a leather belt pulled in tight over the hips, a scrunched-up waistline, and baggy legs. Slimline jeans were impossible. How I envied the girls who could get into jeans so slender that the joke was they were sewn on. (I'm sure I wasn't alone in that envy)
When I began buying women's jeans from 2008, I found the fit definitely improved, because they matched my body shape. But now there was a fresh problem: they weren't cut to leave room for The Bits. So wearing jeans was still an exercise in discomfort.
And besides, they now had competition. By 2009 I had discovered the joys of leggings. I decided, without a backward glance, without a single nostalgic pang of regret, that I disliked jeans and vastly preferred leggings and other pliable wear for the lower body. Comfort won out. The last occasion I wore jeans was in July 2010, during my last trips with M--- (it was a concession to her feelings). Not since then. And I think I might as well chuck them out of my wardrobe altogether. I can't see myself ever wanting to wear jeans again, whether blue or any other colour.
I've decided too that I don't really like the look and feel of denim. It may be great for some people, but for me the stiff texture, the thickness and the weight is a no-no. Give me lightweight soft fabrics that cling, or drape, and reveal the body shape. And, if you will, make a different kind of personal statement. I bought some denim jackets in 2008, as compromise androgynous wear. I hardly wore them. They've long gone. In early 2009 I bought a denim skirt. Never wore it. It's gone too. I won't be buying anything else in denim. I don't want to look like an ageing cowgirl.