Thursday, March 23, 2017


Like most people, I have owned countless pairs of jeans. I've lived in them for the larger part of my life since around 1971. For the most part, I've been satisfied with my purchases, but occasionally, a recalcitrant pair will surface, challenging all that I know and believe. Witness one such story.

Shortly before Christmas, I visited my local Macy's to buy several pairs of pants. I didn't go there with the intention of buying blue jeans, but after selecting a pair of camel colored duck Levi's and a slate gray pair of Calvins, I thought it might be a good idea to pick up a pair of dark washed Levi's 514's (number three from the top on the picture from my closet at right). I'd bought this style before, and people always said they looked good and fit well, so I banked on that. After all, I was working for Macy's at the time, and people loved to comment on each other's clothes. My female friends would not shy away from giving you an honest and truthful opinion, one way or the other, and I appreciated that. It saved me from a few potential fashion disasters such as the one that occurred around 2004, when my friend Jenny told me that she'd better never catch me wearing another pair of pants with a visible elastic waistband.

But back to the Macy's jeans. Before my purchase, I tried them on in the fitting room, checking them out from every angle, since you cannot be too careful there. The first day I wore the jeans to work (we had a casual dress policy), I noticed that as the day wore on, the jeans loosened considerably. By the end of the day, it became a struggle to keep them pulled up at the waist. They pooled over the tops of my shoes like rococo drapes in the parlor of a Louisiana plantation house. I brought them home and washed them, and the next time I wore them, they lasted a bit longer, maybe until early afternoon. This pattern continued throughout January, when I left Macy's to take semi-retirement.

Once I was not working, I had the opportunity to exercise more often, and I lost a few pounds. I saw this as a very positive thing until the next time I tried to wear the jeans. I put them on before I left the house one morning, and by lunchtime, they were sagging mercilessly. Now, I'm not a total fashion slave (okay, maybe sometimes), but this was unacceptable. It was time for action.

I bundled up the jeans in a Macy's plastic bag and headed to North Point Mall, where I had purchased them. I did this thinking that maybe the store would replace them. I wasn't looking for a refund, because I had owned them (and worn them) a few times, but I just wanted another pair like these. When I walked into the men's department that weekday morning, it was almost deserted, and within a minute or so, a male sales associate walked up to me and asked if he could help.

I was very honest with the sales person. I told him that I had purchased the jeans, had worn them on a few occasions, but that they just weren't working for me, and that I would like to exchange them. Mind you, there was basically no wear on these pants, but they seemed awfully big for the size on the label. The man looked concerned and downtrodden, and he began to ask questions. Eventually, I just said, "Hey, I used to work for the company. Tell me, is this something you cannot do?" At which point, he replied that no, since the jeans had been washed, they could not be returned. Now, I know that people do this all the time, but I didn't push the point. I put the jeans back in the bag and politely headed home.

That evening, I did a geeky thing: I looked up how to shrink jeans on the Internet. There's even a WikiHow page on how to do it. The next day, I followed the online instructions and voila, I had an almost perfectly fitting pair of jeans, except that they were still too long. After a trip to our favorite tailor shop and $16 for alterations, they were perfect. But seriously, I told myself, all this for one pair of pants. I wasn't even wearing them to a prom or anything. I had purchased them on sale, but after the alternations, any financial benefit from that had been negated.

I can only hope that all this effort is worth it, and that this pair of high maintenance jeans, like others in the past, will have a story to tell when they are retired to Goodwill or some other needy charity. But somehow, I think they'll always be treated just a bit differently from the other pairs in my closet.

I guess the moral of the story is that sometimes, you just have to work at something to get it right, or alternatively, anything worth having is worth fighting for. Seriously, there is nothing more awful than an ill-fitting pair of pants.