Jeans Old And New

Today I’m wearing a pair of blue jeans I’ve had for at least 25 years. I think more, but I can’t be sure. Except for a rent in one knee, they’re intact. And yesterday I was wearing a pair of jeans I had cut off for shorts maybe 40 years ago.

By contrast,I had to discard a new pair I had only had for…three years max, because they came apart at the lower seam of the rear pockets. (I mean, it’s ok to have a knee peeking out, but you don’t want your butt winking at passers-by.) And now Im soon going to have to discard their replacement because the rear pocket is ripping away from the pants, leaving an ever increasing hole.

A good, comfy, well broken-in pair of blue jeans ( I mean real ones: Wrangler, Levi’s, not the fashion items) could last ya pretty much your whole life (while also serving as a merciless monitor of your weight).

What happened? Did they forget how to make denim? Or did they forget how to sew seams?

I know this is minor, dear polymaths, but when I think of the iconic importance of blue jeans to the American world image…when we went to the Soviet Union we were cautioned NOT to wear them, people would actually try to buy them off your butt on the street—or take them! And in Bulgaria a few years ago, our guide blissfully recounted getting her first pair of blue jeans after 1989…no, jeans are a big deal. And they are and always will be the best pants for horseback riding, tight from the crotch to the thigh so they dont creep up as you bounce along.

Is this drastically shortened obsolescence deliberate? Is it a reduction in the quality of the denim, the workmanship, or what?


I’m sorry to say it is emblematic of this entire society. Every corner you can imagine and some I’ve never even thought of, is being cut. Every enterprise, with rare exception, is intent on extracting maximal money for minimal product. Forget quality - all that’s required is that it initially appear as what it is supposed to be. So yes, this one item is “minor”, but it scales to most every item we buy.

I have been furious (surprise!) lately because of Hulu. I pay extra for “commercial-free”. Hah!! That applies to the vast minority of content. Almost everything has commercials. As if that isn’t enough, the number, duration and sheer idiocy of these commercials is so out of proportion that I have taken to just turning the TV off. Were it not for affection for my wife, I would cancel every streaming service. Even Amazon Prime has greatly reduced “free” programming and charging PPV prices or allowing viewing was part of a 1 week”free” trial. Then, there is the issue of “de-banking”, but that will be the subject of a forthcoming post. I am amassing the venom and tamping down the fury.


Yup! New stuff just sucks.

It’s ALL of it. I personally think “skinny” jeans and the like may be something a young, well-proportioned female could wear, but seeing it all over is just - icky. Men! In skinny suit pants! The pant doesn’t hang properly, and most guys just don’t have the “build” to wear skinny anything.

Then there’s the overall quality. Once was you could buy a furnace or air conditioning unit and expect it to live maybe 30-40 years.Now you’re lucky to get 10 out of your unit.

Cars. Once was you could have a “minor” fender bender and it wasn’t the national DEBT to fix. Body shops actually knew how to take off a part, use a roller or what’s needed, and return the shape to what it was. NOW - you basically junk the car if the air bag goes off!


Here is an April 2023 article from Harper’s Bazaar about declining quality in the “fast fashion” sector.

But increasingly, most clothing on the market is, simply put, no good. According to a viral tweet, “Most Gen Z consumers don’t even know what quality fashion looks & feels like.” And while that may be a massive generalization, it’s inarguably true that clothing quality has dropped precipitously over the past 30 years. A pair of jeans purchased at the Gap in 1995 was made of thick 100 percent cotton and constructed to withstand years of heavy wear. Now, the same pair of jeans costs $17 after multiple discounts, has added elastane, and is liable to fall apart after several washes.

“I love raiding my mom’s closet, because she keeps all her clothes in such good condition, whereas mine will break quite easily,” Maya Hall, an 18-year-old political science major at the University of Oregon in Eugene, says. “From freshman to junior year of high school, I was big on buying PacSun jeans, but I would have to buy the same pair [pretty] often, because they would shrink really fast and looked demolished just from me walking around in them.” Hall loves her mom’s vintage Levi’s that hail from the 2000s, because they’re a thicker, more durable material than what she’s used to, and stay true to size after a wash.

Given the success of fast fashion in the retail market, I wonder whether it’s motivating “quality” producers to move down-market in order to compete with products designed to last a year or less. Also, perhaps, fast fashion has created an expectation among customers that clothes do not last, so they’re not upset when products disintegrate after a few washings.

The tendency to cut cost of goods in manufacturing in order to hit a lower retail price point or increase margins is powerful and deeply ingrained, particularly in the U.S. MBA culture. A vintage example, dating from the 1930s, probably responsible for hundreds if not thousands of deaths, is the “All American Five” AM radio receiver. The radios had no power transformer and worked on both AC and DC power, which allowed them to run on ancient power utilities or farm battery banks that supplied DC current. But the main motivation for eliminating the transformer was to save money, and no transformer-equipped radio could be price-competitive with a “hot chassis” design where one wire of the AC line cord was connected directly to the chassis. Now, any sane and responsible electrical engineer would connect the “neutral” wire to the chassis, since if the radio was equipped with a polarised plug and plugged into a polarised socket, the chassis would be close to ground potential if accidentally touched. (This was easy to do—if, say, the volume or tuning knobs were damaged and you tried to turn the control shaft with your fingers, you were effectively touching the chassis.)

But, in fact, a few years after these radios came on the market, most of them connected the “hot” wire to the chassis and switched the neutral wire, which meant that not only was the chassis carrying lethal current when the radio was turned on, it was equally hot even when turned off. Why was this done? Because due to the way the power switch was combined with the volume control, switching the hot wire would require one extra solder lug, which would add a fraction of a penny to the component cost of the radio. So, out with it, and in with electrocuting unwary customers!

At least shoddy jeans don’t kill you.


Some of that might be women’s clothing, my wife’s jeans wear out a lot faster than mine and are also prone to tearing out at the seams . Her’s are thinner and cost more, and not the fashion kind. The jeans I’m wearing now have a few scrapes and mystery stains, but are probably 30 years old. Mine start off as go-to-town jeans and move into the everyday stack when they earn it.

Project Farm did jean testing about a year ago

Wonder how many jeans, like those radio chassis, are now reworked by design for manufacturing engineers?


This got me thinking about what (if anything) has gotten better over the last few decades.

Surprisingly, automobiles fall into a gray area. Certainly, modern vehicles are loaded down with a lot of expensive government-mandated gee-gaws and they are not really designed to be repaired. But, on the other side of the ledger, metallurgy has improved incredibly. Rust used to be the big vehicle-killer – no more.

Then we might think of a modern Chinese High Speed Train – so much better than the kind of passenger trains from 40 years ago. And rockets – Spacex rockets today are a generation ahead of what we had 40 years ago. (Using Hyp’s cut-off jeans as the time marker). Some things are getting much better, but generally not in the consumer market.

Perhaps we should look in the mirror, collectively. Because of bad government resulting in de-industrialization, many of us face a declining real standard of living. Consequently, as a group of consumers, we demand low prices instead of high quality. There could be an argument for a market failure – surely some manufacturers should recognize that some part of the population would willingly pay a premium price for a long-lived high quality item? But stock analysis are not going to put a Buy recommendation on that manufacturer’s stock.


I won’t provide a link, because I’m not sure if such direct product promotion is okay here, but I’ve been happy with the fit and durability of the Round House jeans I bought a few years back. I’ve yet to retire a pair.

They are made in America, apparently with real cotton denim. I think a huge problem with most “denim” these days is the elastic fibers put in to give it some give. Just what I don’t want in a pair of jeans!

More generally, I often lecture the kids about Peter Minuit buying Manhattan for a few guilders worth of trade goods, and that, while I don’t know whether that’s true or not, I am quite positive that we are selling off the rest of the United States a few dollars at a time in exchange for disposable trinkets at Walmart.


Wait! What?

Huh. One of man’s great life pleasures, dissed out of hand. :frowning_face:

So, no thong bikinis for you, I’m guessing?