I like denim. I like the versatility of denim, the heritage and history that goes along with this great material. Being someone who is active on Instagram and occasionally accepts the label of “denim head” I thought it would be a fun experiment to buy a fresh pair of raw denim, where them 8-10h hours a day for 30 days and document the progress. The main goal was to see what kinds fades I would get.
What I didn’t anticipate was an internal dialogue on minimalism and consumerism.
First things first, the denim for my 30 day “journey” I chose to go with, was a pair of Shockoe Atelier Deadstock Dungarees. The material dates to 1971. Shockoe was able to create a slim pair of denim that has a neppy quality and a little bit of slub. I’ve never owned a pair of Shockoe’s, so I didn’t have any prior experience with how the denim would hold up to the rigors of everyday life. Well I was all set, committed to wearing these jeans for 30-days straight and post a picture to Instagram each day.
Well fast forward to 30 days later. I successfully wore this pair for the entire time. I wore no other pair of denim or pants. The denim started breaking in nicely and fades started happening. But here is what I started learning, mostly about myself. I’m a consumer. I like variety. I like having new stuff. Not only could I not wear other pairs of denim that I own; constantly online shopping wasn’t helping me either.
This is where it got a bit more complex for me.
I started thinking about how people 100 years ago made do with a couple of pieces in their wardrobe and how it is now common place to own many pairs of boots and denim, that essentially serve the same function. Back 100 years ago, you got a new pair of jeans or boots when you absolutely needed them.
Now, I get a pair of denim or boots when I want to, not because I need to.
Back then workwear served a purpose, to last and be functional for its user. That’s why you have brands like Redwing and Levis around to this day. They started out providing clothing and footwear for workers of a low socioeconomic status. Now, a pair of Levis Vintage Clothing will cost you $200 plus and a pair of Redwing’s Heritage line of boots can cost between $300-$350.
I will gladly pay these prices, because I know that they will last forever. The problem with heritage and well-built clothing being marketed in a modern-day society is that they will never be worn or used the way they were 100 years ago.
Case in point, I own well over ten pairs of well-made raw denim from some excellent brands; but because I own so many, it will be nearly impossible for me to completely exhaust a pair. Additionally, the way that clothing is marketed now you get seasonal drops from most designers of workwear; thus encouraging you to buy another well built, well-engineered garment from them, ultimately preventing you from really wearing the heck out of previously bought pieces.
So back to me, wearing a single piece of denim for 30-days wasn’t necessarily a sacrifice. This was a self-imposed thing that I could’ve broken at moment. I love American workwear. I love heritage and vintage pieces. I love the history that accompanies the brands that I buy. I also love buying new clothing pieces that aren’t necessities and I don’t mind spending hundreds of dollars on them.
I suppose the reality that I’ve come to is I am a consumer.
In some ways this makes me sad because it means I will never be a hundred percent content. I will always be looking for that next piece of workwear. For myself, I am fortunate enough to be able to buy what clothes I want and not give it too much thought. This is where I see my love for American workwear that embodies the spirit of minimalism butt heads with my discontented consumeristic self.
Is there a lesson to be learned here, maybe? Or more of a dialogue on what it means to be content. In no way shape or form did I think I would be writing a piece on minimalism, consumerism and contentment after wearing one pair of denim for 30 days. This experience has been enlightening for me. I suppose you don’t have to go far, for your eyes to be open.