C.W. Gusewell


Jeans now tell us who wears the pants

Style mavens are all but unanimous in declaring blue jeans the new “power suit” for men, and the fashion industry misses no chance to trumpet the ascendency of denim.

Evidence can be seen almost daily in news photographs and on television.

There was a time when senior diplomats, captains of industry and heads of state unfailingly presented themselves in suits, preferably sober charcoal gray, white dress shirts and neckties.

In some societies, of course, decorum endures.

Can you picture, for example, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia or Japan’s Emperor Akihito parading around in faded Levis with holes in the knees?

But the craze is spreading.

There’s a photo on the Internet of Dmitri Medvedev, Barack Obama and their wives, walking and chatting together in a pastoral setting, perhaps during the 2009 visit to Washington by the then-president of Russia.

Both men are wearing navy sport jackets. Obama is in khaki pants. His guest from Moscow is in blue jeans, which, even in the darkest days of the Cold War, were prized by any Russians able to lay hands on a pair.

Another shot on the web is of France’s Nicolas Sarkozy and his model-wife, Carla Bruni, strolling hand in hand, both in jeans – his the traditional washed blue, hers a kind of gray. Ms. Bruni, of course, would look stunning in trousers of any color. Or none at all.

But circumstances change.

Medvedev recently yielded Kremlin leadership back to Vladimir Putin. And Sarkozy was evicted from the Elysee Palace this month by the French voters.

So, for them, power-projecting jeans are no longer of much practical use. Nor do I see a place for them in my wardrobe.

My wife, however, has insisted I follow the crowd. And on a day not long ago I was led – dragooned is the better word – to a department store to be outfitted.

There was no opportunity for argument. After several trips to the fitting room, I came home with a pair. The styles of them are numbered. Mine, I believe, are 514s. And the price was reasonable – something under $40.

Clearly I got off easy. The cost of men’s jeans, I read, can be fierce, ranging upward from $19 for knockoff Levis at a warehouse store to $375 for True Religions, more than $600 for Guccis, all the way to Dussault Apparel’s trashed denims – 13 times washed, decorated with rubies, diamonds and 18-karat gold. Price: $250,000 a pair.

The promotional material says the wearing of jeans projects authority, confidence and a willingness to live on the cutting edge.

It may be true for heavy hitters – corporate chieftains, bond traders, elite athletes, stars of stage and screen, and such.

But when I read that, I do not find myself described.

I’ve spent a career avoiding authority like a social disease. Confidence for me is an on-and-off thing, depending on how the day’s writing has gone. The only time I feel I’m on the cutting edge is when I’m driving my Smart Car.

So my 514s will do nicely, thank you. And I’ve worn them three times. Once around the house. Once at the farm.

And just once in public.