Jim Buchanan

Jim Buchanan

I suppose making fun of fashion has been in fashion as long as fashion itself has … um, been in fashion.

Who am I to buck the trend?

What prompted this column was the observation that, on every campus I’ve been on in the last few weeks, a new fashion trend is in evidence: Threadbare jeans.

These are jeans that, as the name implies, are worn down to the point that the flesh is exposed, generally at the knees but sometimes all up and down the legs. At times there is more flesh than thread in evidence.

One can only assume good money has been paid to attain this look. My first reaction upon seeing them, however, was how Mother would have reacted.

“Those children,” she would have thought, “must be so poor.”

“They can’t even afford patches.”

Patches were once standard-issue fare for jeans in the mountains. You’d rip a knee out playing football or whatever and a patch would be applied. Unpatched jeans were a rarity.

Patches got extra mileage out of jeans.

Mountain women took great pride in their patching skill, a skill developed over years of crafting patchwork quilts.

Of course, applying patches to today’s threadbare jeans would leave you with more patch than jean. Then again, who knows? That could be the next fashion trend. And it’s also rather practical, as patches generally seemed sturdier than the surrounding jeans.

At any rate, jeans have been the paramount fashion trend of my life. In the 50s it was jeans with T-shirts; in the 60s it was jeans with no shirts. In the 70s it was bellbottom jeans, in the 80s it was jeans with a sports coat, and onward it’s been jeans with a sports coat and tennis shoes instead of dress shoes.

Look at photos prior to the 50s and you’ll notice a couple of trends. Men wore hats, Stetsons or Fedoras, and they also wore ties. I mean all the time. In one of Bob Plott’s tomes on hunting in the Smokies there’s a photo of a group of bear hunters after a successful day in the woods, lined up with their kill.

One of them is wearing a tie.

The hunter in question might have been wearing a tie in the event he lost his dog leash. Maybe that strip of cloth around his neck was fated as a backup.

I can’t imagine any other reason to be wearing a tie on a bear hunt. Just not sure who you’re hoping to impress.

Your Plott hound?

The bear?

Daddy sure never wore a tie in the woods. Quite often he was wearing barely anything after tearing through a laurel thicket, but Mother would patch up his clothes and he’d jump right back in.

I cannot think of a more useless piece of clothing than a tie. There’s zero utility in a tie. It does not hold your shirt on or your pants up.

Speaking of holding your pants up: Fashion is quirky. It can also be straight-up vicious.

In general, the height of fashion one day is going to look ridiculous in 20 years. The shoulder padding women sported in the 80s looks goofy today, as does the aforementioned bellbottoms of the 70s.

But it takes a special kind of ridiculous to look goofy from the get-go, which brings us to sagging jeans.

The ban on belts in prisons is supposedly what gifted us with this trend, a trend strong enough that the culture as a whole started putting up signs banning people showing more underwear than jeans from establishments o’er the land.

Again, this is a special look that has the added punch of having zero utility. A friend of mine in Henderson County had a chain link fence around her yard, and one day a gent with no belt was fleeing the authorities when he tried to hurdle it. The sagging jeans grabbed the links as he went over, pulling his pants all the way down and leaving him upside-down, completely trussed up. He’d still be dangling off that fence today if my friend hadn’t seen him swinging in the breeze.

Of course, if Mother had witnessed this she would have expressed sympathy.

So poor he couldn’t afford a belt.

Buchanan is editor of the Sylva Herald.